UFC welterweight champion and no. 2 ranked pound-for-pound fighter Kamaru Usman spoke with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto about several topics, including his rematch with no. 4 ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and the state of the welterweight division.
Usman started by explaining why he decided to defend his title against Masvidal again just two and a half months after successfully defending it against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
“I’m not getting any younger. I don’t know how many more of these I want to do, and speaking with all the guys that I look up to and getting their advice is ‘You gotta do it while you can.’ Because time comes and goes very, very quickly,” Usman said. “So I just took that advice and I’m just like, ‘You know what? There’s no time to waste.’ Looking at all the contenders that were on that list, there was one that I kind of still had a bad taste in my mouth from.”
Of course, Usman is referring to his next opponent in “Gamebred.”
While the three-time defending champion handily decisioned Masvidal at UFC 251 with two 50-45’s and a 49-46 on the judges’ scorecards, “The Nigerian Nightmare” still believes he could have performed better.
Despite the lopsided performance, some fans and pundits credited Masvidal for going to a decision with Usman on six days notice after seeing the champion finish formidable contenders like Colby Covington and most recently Gilbert Burns.
Why Kamaru Usman opted for Jorge Masvidal rematch
But Usman made it abundantly clear that the opinions of the aforementioned members of the MMA community is not why he sought a rematch.
“It wasn’t because of what people said or what people thought. It was because of what I thought, and how I felt after the fight,” Usman said. “I knew what I was dealing with when I went there for that fight, and yes I was still able to get the win. But not in the way that I wanted.”
Once the rematch was booked, many within the MMA community argued that there are contenders within the division who are more deserving of a title fight.
Some point to Colby Covington, who defeated former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley last September. Others point to the fact that a rematch with Masvidal will be more lucrative than a rematch with Covington, and the numbers prove it. It was reported that Usman’s main event bout with Masvidal at UFC 251 sold 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, which falls into the top 10 of the UFC’s highest selling pay-per-views in history.
Usman acknowledged there is truth behind those claims, but also provided arguments against that sentiment.
“Does he bring more eyes right now? Absolutely. I’m a realist. I’ve always been a realist,” Usman said. “I don’t take that away from [Masvidal]. I’m proud of him for everything that he’s done, absolutely proud of him. Respect in that aspect, but let’s be honest, I have what everybody wants. It’s green panty night when you’re fighting me. He’s not getting pay-per-views and stuff like that on his own. He has to fight me.”
Usman ultimately recognizes that there is a healthy balance between the potential revenue a dance partner like Masvidal generates in conjunction with wanting to rid that sour taste Usman has from their first fight.
As far as the latter, however, Usman articulated why he has that bad taste from the first bout.
“Honestly, I don’t think I broke him the way that I wanted to break him. There’s something that satisfies me when I fight guys, and that’s the thing that… I believe years ago, Jon [Jones] spoke about this… is when you’re in there with that opponent it’s such an intimate moment there to where only you and that guy know what’s going on,” Usman said.
“Only you and that guy know how hard he hits you. Only you and that guy know how hard I’m coming at you, and with Masvidal, I don’t think I fully broke him the way I wanted to. With everyone else, I know when I broke them. I know when I broke their spirit. I know when I broke their heart. And with him, I don’t feel like I fully got there.”
Why isn’t Usman fighting Colby Covington at UFC 261?
Usman then turned his attention to current no. 1 welterweight contender and former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington saying he wants to see his former opponent compete more frequently.
“I wanna see activity, and he’s not showing activity. That’s a problem. The champion can’t be the most active guy in the division,” Usman said. “Because like I said, I’ve lapped everybody, and now I’m coming back around.”
While some may find it ironic that Usman’s next opponent in Masvidal has not fought since their first fight last July, Covington has only fought once since losing to Masvidal in December 2019.
Usman believes rather than fighting lower ranked contenders, Covington is instead waiting for another opportunity to challenge for the belt.
“You can’t just sit there and say, ‘Oh well, hopefully you pick me, pick me, pick me,’” Usman said. “Show me activity. Give me something. Give me a reason. It’s not necessarily me, I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve done it before. You can ask his jaw. I’ve done that before. Now it’s for him to show the people that he deserves another chance to fight for the title.”
As long as Usman continues this incredible run, it is going to be difficult to deter him from calling shots as the king of the UFC welterweight division.
UFC 258 highlights & recap: Kamaru Usman’s most recent victory over Gilbert Burns
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