Kamaru Usman, Nigerian martial artist, 1.83m tall, was born in Nigeria, but left Benin City for Arlington in Texas as a young child when his family migrated to the US. Many years later, he is proud of his nickname, the Nigerian Nightmare. Kamaru Usman believes he was born to fight and on Saturday, the 31-year-old proved it by becoming the first African Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion after defeating title holder Tyron Woodley, at a flagship event in Las Vegas.
“If Tyron Woodley doesn’t bring his A-game, it’s going to be a short night,” Usman had said about the man who had been welterweight champion since 2016.
For Usman, the UFC presents the perfect arena to showcase his talent for a sport he joined at elite level in 2015.
Since joining the UFC, Usman has slowly worked his way up the ranks from rookie to title challenger in the space of just a few years.
Who is Kamaru Usman?
Born 11 May 1987 in Auchi, in the midwestern Edo state of Nigeria, Kamaru Usman, the first African fighter to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title, moved to the United States when he was seven, finding a passion for wrestling in high school. In 2010, he won a national title while in college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He hasn’t looked back since and now has a record 14 wins and just one loss in his mixed martial arts career, also known as MMA.
Usman believes growing up in Nigeria has been instrumental in his steady rise to the top of his sport.
“I remember the streets, I remember having to walk what seemed like miles and miles and miles to fetch water from the wells with my grandmother,” he says.
“I lived with my grandmother for a year when I was very young, and even to this day when I tell my mother events that took place, she can’t believe that I can recall that far.
“I recall a lot of it. I recall the hard work that my family went through just to continue to live the lifestyle that we were living, which wasn’t by any means a great lifestyle.
“It was just an amazing lifestyle to instill certain values in a child.”
Usman, a former winner of the Ultimate Fighter TV show, began wrestling at high school in Texas and was a top prospect throughout college.
“It was kind of time to make a switch and not just be a wrestler any more, but to be a fighter and to go and make a living for not just myself but my family as well,” he told Sportsworld.
Athletes like Usman have been switching over to UFC from other disciplines as the competition experiences a phenomenal rise in popularity.
The trend is illustrated in UFC’s price – the competition was bought in 2001 for $2m by the Fertita brothers. They sold it to a group of firms in 2016 for $4bn, according to Forbes business magazine.
Usman is not the only fighter in his family. His younger brother, Mohammed, is also a fighter on the MMA heavyweight circuit with three wins and a loss to his name.
When Usman isn’t preparing for career-defining fights, he attends to family duties such as looking after his daughter and taking her to daycare.
“You have to be able to find a balance [with your family],” he says.
Although the odds were stacked against him, Usman fought to the end on Saturday to make history because that’s the only way he knows how to.
Like many Nigerian fighters before him, Usman is nicknamed the ‘Nigerian Nightmare,’ and is one of around five Africans in the UFC. Usman’s rise also brought attention from some friends in high places, notably, Dana White, president of the UFC, who said in a recent interview: “I was impressed. I’m telling you, I want to see him fight Woodley now. I want to see the Woodley fight. That’s what I want,” he said in a post-fight interview with Fox Sports.
He got his wish in the eagerly-awaited showdown with the American fighter Woodley. In a CNN interview, Usman says he believes he could be welterweight champion by now if he had gotten the chance to fight Woodley as planned in September last year.
Usman was penciled in as the backup for a fight between Woodley and English challenger Darren Till in America, amid fears that Till would not make the weight required to fight in the division. Usman says he went on a grueling training camp and a strict diet to prepare for the potential fight. In the end, the fight never happened as Till made the weight just a day before his bout with Woodley, which he eventually lost. Though disappointed not to get the chance, Usman is sanguine about the experience.
“I believe in fate. I believe in karma. I believe in things like that,’ he says.
“I was ready and fully waiting to take full opportunity of that, but it didn’t happen, so hey, it’s not in God’s plan for me. Maybe God wanted me to get it a certain other way, but I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure that I’m a champion.”
Kamaru Usman becomes first African champion
Kamaru Usman has become the first African fighter to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title. He won the mixed-martial arts (MMA) bout against American Tyron Woodley. The fighter, known as the “Nigerian Nightmare”, dominated the Las Vegas contest for the welterweight title.
The UFC is the biggest competition in MMA, where competitors combine boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling and other disciplines while fighting in an octagonal cage. Usman produced the performance of his career to dominate long-reigning welterweight champion Woodley.
He extended his winning streak to 14 and maintained his unbeaten record in the UFC. In his post-match press conference he revealed that before the match he had fractured his foot and had been walking around in a supportive boot all week. He started off the press conference by greeting journalists in Arabic before switching to Pidgin.
“Nigeria, I have told them, we would do it, I told them we never fail. And we have done it today,” he said in Pidgin.
Kamaru Usman Wins 2019 Slugfest vs. Colby Covington with 5th-round TKO
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman put his title on the line for the first time in the UFC 245 main event on Saturday against former interim titleholder Colby Covington. It was a grudge match. The two despise each other and months of trash talk led up to Saturday’s title fight.
There was no feeling out process. Once the bell rang starting the first round, the two immediately went after each other. Usman landed right hands repeatedly while Covington’s left hand found its mark several times. Usman’s power, though, was taking its toll on Covington and the controversial welterweight was wilting. Usman dropped Covington with a perfectly placed straight right and then dropped him a second time before finishing him at 4:10 of the fifth to retain his belt in the main event of UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena.
UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman produced a dramatic late stoppage to defeat trash-talking challenger Colby Covington in the final minute of their main-event bout at UFC 245 in Las Vegas. After a breathless encounter, Usman finally broke down Covington in the last round, dropping him twice with two huge punches before forcing referee Marc Goddard to call off the contest as he unloaded a barrage of ground strikes.
The build-up to the bout was an ill-tempered one, with Covington goading and insulting Usman over the course of the past year. And while the pair scuffled in the Palms Casino in Las Vegas back in March, Usman maintained a composed exterior throughout fight week. Despite that, Covington continued to trade with the champion as the bout approached a thrilling climax that saw Usman claim a TKO victory with just 50 seconds remaining.
“I wasn’t worried about hitting him in specific spots, I just wanted to hit him over and over wherever I could,” said Usman.
“He talked a lot going into this, so this was a respect thing. I had a responsibility to go in there and teach him a lesson.”