Ahead of his fourth welterweight title defence this weekend against Jorge Masvidal on a stacked UFC 261 card, Kamaru Usman (18-1 MMA, 13-0 UFC) has vowed to break the #3 divisional contender while saying 170-lb challengers aren’t exciting him – hinting that he may retire if he gets to a point where the landscape doesn’t motivate the same way anymore.
No excuses: Usman targets emphatic weekend win over Masvidal
Make no mistake: Usman isn’t short of motivation right now. It’s the opposite – he was left unhappy with how he dominated Masvidal at UFC 251 last summer and wants a similar display to the one where he picked Gilbert Burns apart two months ago. Albeit, without the early scare.
READ: UFC 258 – Usman earns R3 TKO vs. Burns, retains his WW strap after early trouble
During an interview with MMA Fighting ahead of this weekend’s PPV card, he said:
“At the end of the day, it’s not about him – it’s about me. I personally wasn’t satisfied with the way I dominated him, I don’t feel like I fully broke him in the way that satisfied me – that’s why I called for it again.
When I’m going through my career, I’m older and sitting down, I’m like yep, broke him. Him too, knocked his ass out. I want to definitively sit back and say yep, I took care of that one. That was light work for me.
“That’s why I aim to do this again, I aim to improve on my performance. As you see, I’m still getting better, still growing as a fighter.”
He described watching an opponent wilt and finding ways out of a fight, as something that gets him his fix. Whether he’ll manage to do that against Masvidal this weekend remains to be seen.
“That’s my thing is getting an opponent to the point where they’re just like I don’t want to be here with you anymore, please take me out. Finding that with him, I think is going to be key.”
Perspective as welterweight activity not exciting the champ
Covington retained his number one contender spot while promoter Dana White has already confirmed he’s next in line for another title shot – regardless of who wins on Saturday.
That’s despite only fighting once since losing a Fight of the Night title clash against Usman at UFC 245, a TKO win over former champion Tyron Woodley in mid-September last year.
Woodley, who had three career losses before dropping the title in a lopsided defeat by Usman two years ago, has now lost four straight after a first-round defeat by Vicente Luque last month.
So with respect to the former champion, he’s past his best and not a fair barometer of success.
Usman has beaten six of the UFC’s current top-10 welterweights, with Stephen Thompson (#5) and Michael Chiesa (#7) intriguing future matchups – assuming both keep winning.
The latter doesn’t have an opponent scheduled but will be watching with interest over the coming months, after Thompson-Burns was confirmed for UFC 264 earlier this month.
Considering he turns 34 next month, his prime years won’t last forever – Woodley is a prime example. On the subject of multiple rematches in a division with plenty of stagnation, he said:
“That’s a really good question, because I’m asking myself that as well. Being a realist, honest with myself, I know I can’t do this forever and don’t want to.
We’re on a track right now, I’m just so far ahead of these guys that I’m coming back around and lapping them now.
I want to go out there, get this one but after this we have to really take a hard look and see what there is out there for me – because it’s not these guys.
Whether it’s crossing over, doing something else or maybe walking away, you never know. Another thing that’s frustrating is these guys aren’t wanting to fight each other. How is the champion the most active guy in the division?
That’s ridiculous to me. These guys need to go out there, put on a performance to where I’m like ‘wow.’ That motivates me, I’ve got to fight that guy.”
Despite Usman’s reflective comments here, there are still a few more rematches left on the table before you can justifiably argue him leaving no stone unturned in that regard. Leon Edwards (#3, Nate Diaz at UFC 262) and the aforementioned Covington appear the most intriguing.
Picture source: Getty Images — quotes via MMAFighting