Kamaru Usman will never accept anything less than the best, which actually brings him to the main event of UFC 261 this weekend.
Having dispatched former teammate Gilbert Burns in February, the reigning and defending UFC welterweight champion immediately called for a rematch against Jorge Masvidal, whom he had just defeated unconditionally seven months earlier. It seemed like an odd choice at the time, given that Usman had already earned a one-sided decision over Masvidal, not to mention the first and only UFC champion who has not competed since then to earn his way to another title shot.
In the end, Usman explained his reasons to UFC President Dana White, including Masvidal’s complaint that he took their first fight in just six days and had little time to really prepare for the title opportunity. That was enough for White to call for a rematch, but now, just days away from his fourth title defense, the Nigerian champion admits there was more to the story than just a chance to silence Masvidal once and for all.
“After all, it’s not about him. It’s about me, ”Usman explained to MMA Fighting before UFC 261.“ I personally was not satisfied with the way I dominated him. I don’t feel like I completely broke him in the way that suited me. That’s why I called again. As I go through my career and get older, I sit down and, like, yes, I broke it. Yeah, he was also broken. Yeah, knocked his ass out. I want to finally sit down and say: yes, I took care of this. It was an easy job for me.
“That’s why I am looking to do it again, I am looking to improve my performance. As you can see, I am still recovering, I am still learning. I am still growing as a fighter. Of course, on April 24th I will strive to improve my dominant victory over him. “
On his way to becoming champion, Usman defeated all opponents in his path, losing only a few rounds, showing dominant performances each time. To become champion, Usman promised to punish Tyrone Woodley for five rounds in a row to prove his point, and that’s how the fight ended.
When it came time to tackle the always outspoken Colby Covington in his first title defense, Usman refused to use his fight and instead entered a flashy melee that ended in a fifth round TKO, while exposing a broken jaw in his voice. enemy.
Time after time, Usman seems to know what to call his chance, so what is his prognosis for a fight with Masvidal?
“I think it’s just domination to the point where you see the enemy kind of lethargic and finding a way out of the fight,” Usman said. “Basically, I can’t handle it, just find a way to get me out.” This is what I look for every time and this is what my solution gives me. It is my task – to bring my opponent to such an extent that he will simply say: “I don’t want to be here with you anymore, please take me away.” I think finding it with him will be key.
“I had enough time to look at it, collect my thoughts and work with my coach to get closer to it. April 24, I am always delighted and always become a child when I hear these words “and more.” So, on April 24th, I’m going to go there and hear those words again. “
If he can deliver a second defeat to Masvidal, Usman is likely to ensure they don’t meet a third time, but this isn’t the only rematch he might have to re-watch as long as he’s still the UFC champion.
Covington has already been declared the No. 1 contender for the 170 lb. despite Usman previously said the former interim champion needs to win at least one more fight before he can play against him.
While he has never shied away from those the UFC has put in front of him, Usman can’t help but wonder at what point does he start to see diminishing returns in his results if he’s just beating the same opponents over and over again?
“This is a really good question, because I ask myself this question too,” Usman said. “As a realist, I’m honest with myself and I know I can’t do this forever, and I don’t want to do this forever. As I said, now we are on the right track, I was so far ahead of these guys that I come back to them and now I’m grinding them. So after talking to some of my mentors and some of the greatest who have done this, they tell me that at some point this will start, is waking up in the morning and going to the gym to do the day’s work. it will get harder and harder when nothing else motivates me like that.
“So that’s one thing, I’m motivated because I didn’t really feel like I had this fix. I still have this fear in me. I want to go and buy this one, but after that we have to take a serious look and see what is there for me. Because these aren’t these guys. Whether it’s a transition and something else, or maybe leaving, you never know. “
The list of fighters to come out on top is pretty short, but Usman saw one of the greatest competitors of all time do just that just a few months ago, when Khabib Nurmagomedov called it a career right after beating Justin Goetji and pushing his record. up to 29-0.
Of course, Usman isn’t saying he is retiring anytime soon, let alone announcing his intention after UFC 261, but he knows that in order to define his own legacy in the sport, he needs rivals who really challenge him.
Currently, Usman has already won four of the top five welterweight fighters, and he is not sure how much he will win by beating the same people over and over again.
“Yes, these guys have to show me something for me to know in order to instill fear in me:“ Oh my god, I need to get up, I need to wake up, get up and prepare for these guys, ”Usman said. “Because right now they have little to offer me. It’s just not that many, because I’m so far ahead of them now that I cling to these guys.
“Another unpleasant thing is that these guys don’t want to fight each other. As the champion, the most active guy in the division? It’s funny to me. Covington is offered to Masvidal, but he refuses. Edwards is offered to Covington, but he refuses. [Khamzat] Chimaev is invited [Stephen] Thompson, and he refuses him. These guys don’t want to fight each other, but they expect the champion to just dial their number and say, “Okay, you come to make some money, and you come to make some money.” This is what I mean. These guys need to go out and put on a show where I’m like a wow. It motivates me. I have to fight this guy. “