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How Jorge Masvidal could be banking on Florida’s ‘mutual combat’ law to exonerate him

“Mutual combat” is a recognized defense in Florida battery cases. Here’s how it applies to Jorge Masvidal’s alleged attack on Colby Covington.

Jorge Masvidal was recently arrested and charged with aggravated battery and criminal mischief in relation to an altercation with Colby Covington outside a restaurant in South Florida. These are serious charges: the aggravated battery charge is a felony that carries up to 15 years of jail time and $10,000 in fines.

There’s plenty of evidence that Masvidal did indeed punch Covington outside Papi Steak in Miami Beach. There’s footage from before and after the incident, eyewitness testimony and several incriminating social media posts from Masvidal himself and his agents where they brag about the attack.

Even with all this, Masvidal entered a plea of “Not Guilty” during his arraignment, demanding a jury trial. And a recent statement made by “Gamebred” during a Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) meeting may point to how he hopes to beat the charges.

Masvidal called into the NSAC meeting last week as part of a promoter’s license application for a Gamebred Fighting Championship event in the state. During that call he asked that his application be paused while he addressed the legal issues arising from the Covington altercation.

“Since I do have an open case, I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Masvidal said. “If we could table [the promoter’s application], it would be better. Right now, I had mutual combatants with another athlete, and I can’t say too much on that. But if we could table it for later, that would be amazing as well.”

The important reference here is “mutual combat,” which according to Florida law is considered a legitimate defense in battery cases.

What is mutual combat? In simple terms, it’s when both parties consent to fight and therefore both parties are legally at fault. Florida law states that to prove the crime of aggravated battery, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally struck the victim against their will. Mutual combat suggests both parties were willing participants.

The interesting thing about mutual combat is that consent to fight does not have to be verbally / explicitly given in the moment. Florida law states it’s up to the jury to examine the circumstances surrounding the incident to make a determination on consent.

Now, I am not a lawyer. And I am not suggesting Masvidal or his lawyers would be successful in arguing the following interpretation of mutual combat. But, I would not be surprised if they turn up in court with a highlight reel of all the times Covington has publicly said he’d attack Masvidal in the streets should they meet. From there it just takes one juror to decide Covington was effectively consenting to mutual combat with these statements.

Of course, there’s countless other elements of the case to take into account: grainy video that suggests Masvidal ran up on Covington, and an eyewitness calling the attack a sucker punch. Mutual combat, as the name implies, requires mutual aggression. If all the evidence points to the incident being a one-sided bushwhacking, “Gamebred” is in trouble. But, that’s where defense lawyers with their own version of events and evidence come into play.