Thursday, May 6, 2021

Kamaru Usman Wants To Return On June 12 Against Michael Chiesa

Kamaru Usman is eyeing a return to the Octagon less than two months after finishing Jorge Masvidal, and his preferred opponent may surprise you.

After Kamaru Usman disposed of Jorge Masvidal for the second time at UFC 261, the next man up was identified to be Colby “Chaos” Covington. Unlike the case with Masvidal, this selection was not made by Usman but came straight from the boss’s mouth.

Dana White said in no uncertain terms that Covington would be next for Usman, even in light of other pivotal welterweight bouts taking place in the near future, with Gilbert Burns (#2) facing Stephen Thompson (#4) and Leon Edwards (#3) taking on superstar Nate Diaz. But there is another name who hitherto has been completely absent from title talk that has just been thrown in the mix, #7-ranked Michael Chiesa. 

Michael Chiesa
Image Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

According to Kamaru Usman’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, this is the man that both he and Usman determined to be the most deserving of a title shot in another swift turnaround fight for the champion.

“Kamaru called me yesterday. He said, ‘June 12, let’s throw Michael Chiesa a bone,'” Abdelaziz told ESPN. “He asked me, ‘Who (has) the longest winning streak in the division (in the top 10)?’ I said ‘Chiesa.’ He said, ‘Let’s throw Michael Chiesa a bone. Ask the UFC if I can fight on June 12.’ I told the UFC. Listen to me, Kamaru can fight three times more this year.”

Abdelaziz Argues Why Chiesa Is More Deserving Than Covington

With all due respect to Michael Chiesa, the notion of him being selected over Colby Covington seems like a hard sell for two reasons. First, Dana White has already publicly committed to Covington being next and has made no secret how big a fan he was of their first fight. Second, Covington is ranked six spots ahead of Chiesa and is the #1 contender.

Still, Chiesa’s edge in consecutive wins seems to be enough for Usman and company to consider him a more worthy challenger and also one who Abdelaziz feels Usman matches up very favorably against. 

“Listen, Kamaru, in the last three months, fought three times. Colby in the last three years fought three times,” Abdelaziz said. “After Kamaru destroyed his jaw and disfigured his face, Kamaru went and fought three times against very tough opponents. He went and fought Woodley, guy is not even in the UFC anymore, was 40 years old, and beat him. Maybe Colby Covington’s good for business. Who cares?  Chiesa, four-fight winning streak. Vicente Luque, three-fight winning streak. Leon Edwards, nine-fight winning streak. Why’s Colby Covington so special?…

Kamaru Usman Colby Covington
Image Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“Why Colby? Why are we gonna put Colby in the spot?” Abdelaziz asked. “Why not Michael Chiesa? And Michael Chiesa, he can’t take Kamaru down, he can’t lay and pray on him. Stylistically, it’s a good fight. I think Kamaru, 10 times out of 10 will beat him. I love Michael Chiesa, but why not give him an opportunity? But I’m not the promoter. I’m not Dana White.” 

As out-of-the-blue as Chiesa’s name as a potential next opponent for Usman may be, not many people would have guessed that Masvidal would turn out to be next for Usman after having just lost to him in his previous fight in a lopsided decision. This only happened because Masvidal was the opponent Usman handpicked to be next.

That being said, as Abdelaziz alluded to in this interview, Usman and White have a strong relationship and great mutual respect. So if Usman handpicks Chiesa with a persuasive argument, White could very well listen. For the time being, though, White is clear on who he wants to be next, so it will be interesting to see whose candidate will be selected for the next title defense for The Nigerian Nightmare.

Do you think there is a legitimate case for Michael Chiesa being next for Kamaru Usman?