Kamaru Usman is one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. Winner of the 21st Ultimate Fighter is ranked No. 14 at the official UFC rankings and is on a four-fight winning streak in the biggest Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world, making him the only ranked welterweight beside Demian Maia who won all of his last four fights.
Nigeria-born fighter who has 9 wins and only 1 loss in his career, fought for the last time in November 19 when he dominated Warlley Alves (10-2 record) and now is looking for a fight that can move him closer to the UFC title.
Sarajevo Times managed to contact Kamaru who gave an interview for our website.
Kamaru, you’re originally from Nigeria, but most of your life you’ve been in the USA. Why did you leave Nigeria?
“We came to the USA when I was a kid because of my father’s job. He was in the army and he got offer to come here and go to school. After three or four years he applied for visa for all of us, we got the visa and so we all came here“
First MMA fight at the age of 25
“I was a wrestler, I wrestled in high school, I wrestled in college. After college I lived in the Olympic Training Center for two years, training for 2012 Olympics. While I was there, I was helping a lot of MMA fighters, a lot of them asked me to help them, go to their camp because they were going to fight a guy who’s primarily a wrestler. So, I was helping a lot of MMA guys while I was just wrestling. After a while I had some serious injuries caused by wrestling and there I realized wrestling is no more fun to me. I decided to start something else, I still wanted to compete. I’m a big fan of boxing, but if I was going to compete in boxing I wouldn’t be able to apply skills I learned through 12 years of wrestling. I decided to compete in MMA, I moved to Florida with former UFC champ Rashad Evans and I’m training MMA ever since.“
You were just 3-1 when you decided to fight more experienced Lenny Lovato (8-2 at the time), you TKO’d him, then as a 4-1 professional you TKO’d also much more experienced Marcus Hicks (10-2 at the time). How did you feel before those fights?
“I was nervous as usual, but I knew I had the skills to beat all of them. This is my thing, I’m the best grappler in welterweight division by far. If you’re better striker than me, if you’re better kickboxer, if you’re better boxer, if you hit me too many times, eventually I’m going to take you down. And if I take you down, you’re not getting up. In all of those fights I knew I could take anyone down and I knew I could hold anyone down. I’m open for all other things, like everybody saw I TKO’d Lovato and Hicks, but if it’s not going my way, it’s always good to have that takedown strength in my arsenal. That’s why I’m never worried.”
“I can beat anybody in my division”
“Those fights were good fights for me, I only have 10 fights now, but I fought guys with so much experience so that’s why I can deal with the best guys. Some people say: “Oh he only has 10 fights, he’s not ready for top 10“, but for example Cain Velasquez had just four fights before signing for the UFC and when he had 8-0 record he fought for the title. I have experience, those fights were good for me. Steve Carl’s a really good fighter, he beat a lot of good guys and he finished a lot of good guys. And I went in there and dominated him. If I had one more round I would’ve finished him. I can beat anybody in my division.“
You dominated all of your four UFC opponents, you had 175 strikes, your opponents had just 62, you had 18 takedowns…but you still didn’t KO anyone in the UFC. What do you think about all of that?
“Of course I love to KO, it’s always good when you get a bonus, but there is one thing I learned a long time ago in wrestling. Anybody can go inside, he throws a punch, my punch lands first, the guys get knocked out but when he gets up he says: “You know what, it was a lucky punch, I want a rematch.” I still didn’t KO anyone in the UFC, but I guarantee, none of those guys I defeated want a rematch because I dominated, I broke their spirit, during the fights I break their will inside. None of those guys want to fight me again. Winning by unanimous decision is the most satisfying win because I know I gave all I had, he gave all he had, but he still couldn’t beat me.“
Who has the biggest impact on your career?
“Michael Johnson and I fight hard every time we spar. He’s a very good guy, he pushes me all the time. There is also Jason Jackson, he’s a Titan FC champ and he can beat a lot of UFC guys, his striking is crazy. These guys make me nervous every time I fight, I train with them and they push me every time. Of course there is also Rashad Evans and these are the guys that have the biggest impact on my career. “
Almost eight years ago first Bosnia and Herzegovina MMA fighter in UFC Denis Stojnić was released after two loses against former UFC champ Cain Velasquez and one of the best heavyweights ever Stefan Struve. Those are tough opponents, I believe he would still be in the UFC if he had easier path. What do you think about that UFC policy?
“I saw the highlights of the match between Struve and Stojnić and it was nasty. They want you to be exciting, do crazy stuff and be tough, but if you lose two fights they’ll release you no matter how big your opponents were, they don’t care who you lost to. That’s why I think it’s important to win. Yes, of course, you need to entertain, but at the end of the days winning is the most important thing. If I come to entertain and I lose two or three fights in a row they’re going to cut me eventually.”
What’s next for Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare “Usman?
“I want Dong Hyun Kim, I want someone who doesn’t have a two or three-fights losing streak. Matt Brown lost three of his last four fights. Tarec Saffiedine lost two of his last three fights. Those guys are all losing and I think I’m better than them, I want to jump those guys. That’s why I want Dong Hyun Kim, he’s a tough guy, he is also a good grappler. Hopefully, I can fight in April in Buffalo where’s fighting my teammate Anthony Johnson so hopefully I can get on that card and get Dong Hyun Kim. After I beat him, I want Neil Magny, Neil Magny is beating guys, but I think for me he’s easy fight too. Or maybe Donald Cerrone or Jorge Masvidal if he loses his next fight. I want any of those guys. Demian Maia said he will fight me when I come to top 5 or top 10 so when I beat Dong Hyun Kim and Neil Magny/Donald Cerrone/Jorge Masvidal I hope I’ll fight Demian Maia, and then eventually for the UFC title. My plan is to fight at least three times this year. I’m going to be UFC world champion“
Interview by/ edited by Suan Demirović/photo ufc.com