Kamaru Usman has explained how their Nigerian heritage will prevent a fight from ever happening between he and Israel Adesanya, despite his goals of becoming a two-weight world champion,
Usman has at times even suggested that he could go up 35lb and bypass middleweight, where Adesanya rules, to challenge for the light-heavyweight gold. This is despite there being interest in seeing a bout between the pair from fans, who would be fascinated to see how their styles match up.
But having grown up without seeing Nigerian representation in combat sports, Usman is keen to help young fans in the African nation see as many top stars as possible from their home country. So either he or Adesanya losing their world titles isn’t something he is keen to see happen, meaning a bout between the two pals could never happen.
Since becoming two champions in MMA’s top promotion, Usman and Adesanya have got even closer. And the pair often include Cameroonian Francis Ngannou, the heavyweight champion, in their photoshoots to indicate how successful African-born fighters have been in the sport.
“It’s bigger than just sport because I didn’t grow up seeing this,” Usman explained to BT Sport. “I never grew up and saw ‘oh wow, I could be an MMA fighter and be the world champion’, I never grew up seeing that. But kids now get the privilege of seeing that.
“And not just one champion, you have two, and we’re different flavours, we’re completely different flavours. Izzy does it with his flair, I love his flavour and how he does it. Then I do it with my style. This is just different styles for them to be able to see and pick from, so that means more to me; having two Nigerian champions than just one.”
Usman has appeared to be unbeatable since coming to the UFC after a successful Division two amateur wrestling career, for which he was inducted in the collegiate wrestling Hall of Fame this week. He lost once early in his MMA career, but has since become a dominant welterweight and since arriving in the promotion has never tasted defeat again.
He has even beaten a number of the top challengers in his division twice. Colby Covington brought him through ten tough rounds in 2019 and 2021, but was unable to relieve him of the 170lb belt, nor could fan favourite Jorge Masvidal, who he first dominated in a five-round grappling display before viciously knocking out in their rematch a year later.
Even Leon Edwards, his challenger this Saturday night at UFC 278 has tasted defeat at Usman’s hands before. The pair fought back in 2015 after Usman had just won season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, and the Nigerian comfortably took the victory by unanimous decision.
But the pair have a chance to run it back now, with Edwards never losing again after that night and heading on a nine-fight winning streak in the division. Usman is still a considerable favourite, but there is belief that if anyone can dethrone him, it could very well be the Birmingham native.