Ahead of his rematch with Colby Covington at UFC 268, MMA’s pound-for-pound king is already in the all-time conversation. Does he have anything left to prove?
It’s a quote frequently credited to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the dearly departed middleweight boxing champ: “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 a.m. when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”
It stands to reason — you spend your whole life working towards reaching the top. Becoming the champ. Feeling the particular caress of the crown on your impeccable dome. But once you finally reach the apex of your respective industry, where does the motivation then come from? And once you’ve conquered this world, what on earth else is there to do?
Such is the case of Kamaru Usman, who headlines Saturday’s UFC 268 main event against Colby Covington — a man he hand-delivered not just a TKO, but a fractured jaw when they first met two years ago — under the lights at Madison Square Garden.
At age 34, “The Nigerian Nightmare” won’t be tangling in a mixed martial arts cage forever. And why should he? Usman’s already quite widely regarded as the No. 1 pound for pound fighter in the sport, a coveted status that’s taken on such a life of its own that he’s already talking out loud about a P4P boxing superfight against the biggest, most accomplished star in that sport, Canelo Alvarez.
(Who also happens to be fighting Saturday night for undisputed glory, albeit on the opposite end of the country.)
Would Usman stand much of a chance in a traditional boxing contest against Canelo? Well, no. That’s simply not foreseeable; the Mexican world champion is a generational talent with a truly impressive all-around game that keeps getting better. But the fact that it’s even a conversation, even a far-fetched one, simply speaks to the meteoric level of Usman’s accomplishments.
Not bad for a former Division II college wrestler.
The Nigerian Nightmare on “The ETCs” Podcast
In February, Usman appeared on Boardroom’s “The ETCs” podcast with Kevin Durant and Eddie Gonzalez to discuss his title reign in the run up to his rematch with Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 — a bout that ended with an absolutely thunderous knockout.
Usman spoke about the mental approach of a man who wears championship gold and how he views his opponents — not a single one of which has bested him since he made his UFC debut in 2015 at the age of 28.
As he told KD and Eddie:
“This is what separates the good, great, and the elites. The elites are the type of people that are able to tap into that mentality, like, ‘oh, word? I’m gonna show you. Go out there and show you.’ And that’s the way that I had to approach that. I got into a space where it’s like, man, all right, I’ll let you talk. A lot of these guys, I let ’em take the gas, because that’s the job. The media has to build ’em up as this giant that’s willing to come in and dethrone me. And I’m just like, all right, I’mma do my thing. As long as I take care of what I need to take care of, I’m gonna show you that I am the best.”
Ariel Helwani on Kamaru Usman
Last week, Boardroom spoke with Ariel Helwani, the biggest MMA journalist in the game. When asked who would win a hypothetical UFC “Openweight Grand Prix” tournament with zero weight classes, here’s what he had to say:
“No. 1 on my pound-for-pound list right now is Kamaru Usman. He’s just been so good for so long and he’s developed into a great striker, especially now training with Trevor Wittman. If I’m, if I’m thinking of pound for pound in that way, sort of have to go for Kamaru. If I’m putting him No. 1, that is essentially saying [that] if everything was equal, he’d be the guy who would win.
“We’ve not seen him in many vulnerable spots. Obviously, the Colby fight was super-close and Gilbert [Burns] had a moment there, but this is a dominant run.“
Someone get Dana White on the horn! Time to make this happen (even if it could only take place in the EA Sports UFC video games).
The State of Kamaru Usman, Inc.
The Usman Brand
- Instagram followers (@usman84kg): 2.7 million
- Twitter followers (@USMAN84kg): 655K
- Key endorsements: Love Hemp, Monster Energy, Prosupps, Trifecta
Kamaru Usman’s UFC Bonus Awards
- The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale: $50,000 (Performance of the Night)
- The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale: $50,000 (Performance of the Night)
- UFC 245: $50,000 (Fight of the Night)
- UFC 258: $50,000 (Performance of the Night)
- UFC 261: $50,000 (Performance of the Night)
- TOTAL: $250,000
UFC 268 begins with early prelims at 6 p.m. ET Saturday night on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 8 p.m. on ESPNews, with the main card touching off at 10 p.m. ET exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view. Usman-Covington 2 is expected to begin at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET