Harsh words might be exchanged in the lead up to the UFC 235 co-main event this weekend but ultimately Kamaru Usman has no real animosity towards Tyron Woodley except for one thing.
That UFC welterweight title wrapped around his waist.
Since first arriving via ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, Usman has been on a mission to work his way to the championship and now that he’s just days away from that opportunity being realized, he’s not going to let anyone stand in his way.
As much as there was mutual respect between the two fighters, Usman and Woodley got into a war of words during a pre-fight press conference that brought them together for the first time since the matchup was made official.
In the aftermath of that encounter, Woodley has said that Usman’s confidence stems from the Nigerian born welterweight trying to reassure himself that he’s ready for this fight. Add to that, Woodley has asked for Usman to explain how exactly he’s going to beat him after he’s already rolled through so many top welterweights either as a contender or as champion.
Usman is more than happy to answer that challenge because he truly believes everything that Woodley does well, he just does better.
“When you go into fight you like to think ‘if all else fails, there is one thing I have that I can resort to’ and that’s a big thing with us wrestlers,” Usman said when speaking to MMAWeekly ahead of UFC 235. “If all else fails and I start getting touched too much, I start getting hit too clean, I can always go after his legs and get a hold of him and manipulate him down to the ground and control the fight.
“But when you’re going into the fight and you think about it and you say to yourself ‘I’m very good with my striking but this Usman guy is very good too, he doesn’t get hit a lot and his defense is very good. Well s—t, I’m very good with my wrestling. Damn, this guy is very good with his wrestling and he takes everybody down and people can’t get up. My cardio is OK but damn that motherf—ker’s cardio is crazy. Where do I have an advantage here?’.”
It’s those questions that Usman believes are running through Woodley’s head in the days leading up to their fight.
It’s another reason why Usman feels like the reigning champion was trying so hard to set up a showdown with Colby Covington before taking this particular matchup because it’s a much, much tougher fight.
“He’s racking his brain over and over and over and it’s like s—t, ‘that’s a tough fight, that’s the hardest fight out of anybody on the welterweight roster’,” Usman stated. “I think that’s the biggest thing over time that he’s looked at and realized this is going to be the hardest fight for him.”
Woodley has countered by bringing up the world class credentials from all the welterweight contenders he’s already faced and vanquished during his title reign…
Demian Maia was a deadly submission specialist.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was a dangerous and dynamic striker.
Darren Till was a physically imposing power puncher.
Usman acknowledges as good as all of his past opponents may have been, none of them are him — and Woodley better know that.
“He knows I’m the biggest threat to him. He knows that,” Usman said. “There’s no denying it. He knows it. Now it’s just a matter of who shows up. If he shows up, he might have a chance but when I go out there and do what I do, there will be no chance for him.”