Kamaru Usman has been impatiently waiting for his chance to finally face Demian Maia.
Nearly two years ago when Usman was only one bout removed from winning “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, he earned a lopsided decision over Alexander Yakovlev and then immediately turns his attention towards Maia.
The reason for the call out stemmed from Maia going to battle with Yakovlev two years earlier and Usman putting on an even more dominant performance over the same opponent. Immediately after his win, Usman called for the fight with Maia but unfortunately he never got his shot as the veteran welterweight was in the midst of a long winning streak that culminated in a title fight last year.
Due to an injury to his prior opponent, Usman will now finally get his chance to face Maia this weekend in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Chile. While the circumstances surrounding the fight aren’t perfect, Usman is happy to finally get the fight with Maia so he can prove he deserves to sit amongst the elite welterweights in the UFC.
“I don’t take nothing away from Demian Maia,” Usman told MMAWeekly ahead of the fight. “This is a guy that has been doing this sport since before I even knew what this sport was. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him but I didn’t get into this sport because I want to be rich and famous and get to the top and that’s it. I got into this solely for the sake of competition, to test myself against the best. I’ve put in so much time and I’ve sacrificed so much to where I want to face the best. This is why I called him out two years ago because I wanted to challenge myself against a guy of his level.
“He’s the most dangerous submission specialist in the history of the UFC. I don’t think there’s anyone that comes close to him. You know if you go to the ground with him, your chances of survival are really slim. That’s why I think this fight will open a lot of eyes once I go out there and get the job done.”
Maia steps into this fight after dropping back-to-back bouts against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and interim title contender Colby Covington.
What those two fighters have in common with Usman is all three come from a wrestling background, which is one particular style that Maia has struggled with recently.
Best known for his deadly submission arsenal, Maia hasn’t been able to drag his past two opponents down to the ground and he might suffer the same fate in this fight against Usman, who is a NCAA Division II national champion in wrestling.
Add to that, Usman believes that his overall grappling came could give Maia headaches, not to mention his striking, which he believes is head and shoulders above his upcoming opponent.
Usman knows that if he puts everything together, there’s not a welterweight in the world who can beat him but he’s also well aware that stylistically he creates a lot of problems that Maia just won’t be able to solve.
“I believe I’m the worst matchup for anybody but especially a guy like him,” Usman said. “It just goes to show the work that I put in, which is why I called him out two years ago. I may not be the biggest guy in the welterweight division, but I guarantee pound-for-pound, I’m the strongest guy in the welterweight division. My fight IQ is higher than a lot of guys in the division. Pound-for-pound my striking is able to hang with anybody in the division. Pound-for-pound my grappling is able to hang with the best in the division. What makes me the most dangerous is the ability to mix it up and bring those skills in whenever I need them.
“That’s why he knows I’m the worst possible matchup for him. Everybody in the world knows that. I believe this is why the fight never took place when I asked for the fight years ago.”