Perhaps the biggest storyline attached to the Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns headliner at UFC 258 is the fact that these two men have been teammates and friends for years and will now be fighting one another for the prize they value most in this sport. What some of the public may not realize is just how long Usman and Burns were teammates. Between their time at the Blackzilians and their stint together at Sanford MMA, they were teammates for nearly a full decade, nine years in total.
Kamaru Usman Explains Decision To Exit Sanford MMA
After three years together at Sanford MMA and right around the time Usman was booked to defend the UFC welterweight championship against Burns, Usman suddenly decided to make a change and leave Sanford MMA. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Usman explained what was behind this decision.
“All in all, it came to a point where certain points in your career, you need certain things to be able to grow,” Usman said. “Over time, I felt like I needed a little something. I needed a little more. It’s kind of tough to get that when you’re on a team with 30 guys and your coaches are gone every other week, mid-week. It makes it tough for your to get that personal attention that you need to get in order to stay on top.”
Kamaru Usman is now working with renowned head coach Trevor Wittman in preparation for his fight with Gilbert Burns. Usman has spoken highly of Wittman and feels well prepared for the task at hand due in large part to this new partnership.
Possible Element of Backstage Drama Behind Usman’s Decision
Some may question why Usman would decide to mess with the recipe that got him to this point, though. After all, it was under Sanford MMA that he captured the welterweight championship. Ultimately, Usman believes that in order to avoid becoming stagnant, certain adjustments must be made. That said, he did hint that there was a behind-the-scenes element that also played a role behind the move.
“I’ve done a decent enough job to get to this point but in order to stay there, which is the hardest part, you need certain things,” Usman said. “You need certain attention. Towards the end, I just didn’t feel like I was 100 percent getting that.
“There was some other things, underlying things that happened, that I don’t care to go into right now that kind of helped push along that decision a lot sooner and a lot quicker, but it was something that I kind of wanted for a long time. I narrowed it down almost for that last year of some of the coaches that I really liked and respected, I see the way they work and thought that could be a good fit for me.”
UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns takes place this Saturday, February 13 from inside the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire pay per view will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+.
Do you think Kamaru Usman made a wise decision to exit Sanford MMA ahead of his title fight against Gilbert Burns?