“It’s amazing to see places like Madison Square Garden on the schedule again.” – Roger Andrew Taylor
In a time where the world continues to be widely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s nothing that feels more normal than a big fight in The Mecca, Madison Square Garden. At UFC 268, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington will join the ranks of great fighters who have stepped onto sports’ grandest stage when they do battle in a rematch of their 2019 classic.
When you go to war in an MSG epic, it just might take years off of your life, but it also adds decades to your legacy.
Kamaru Usman has already become one of the greats in MMA before our very eyes. We’ve seen the in-cage supremacy rise out of The Nigerian Nightmare since winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2015 all the way to him having welterweight gold wrapped around his waist in 2019. As champion, he’s been the opposite of complacent, remaining hellbent on improvement and sleeplessly advancing his already uncompromising skill set.
But if you really want to take your game to the next level, there’s no better place to do it than the grand stage of Madison Square Garden.
Madison Square Garden: Where Legends Are Born
“How do you top what I’ve done in this sport so far? You top it by going to MSG.” – Kamaru Usman
For decades, we’ve seen the best fighters in the world compete at MSG: Ali, Frazier, Marciano, Jones Jr., Holyfield, the list goes on and on. And in other sports, perhaps no visitor of The Mecca made MSG his second home more than Michael Jordan.
Jordan himself said that MSG was his favorite arena to play in, and it showed in countless great performances in the arena and being a curse for Spike Lee and his beloved New York Knicks year after year. Today, with Air Jordan form, Kamaru Usman is currently flying in a class by himself.
There are many comparisons to be made between Usman and Jordan. For starters, like Jordan, Usman is known to use the words of his opponents as motivational fuel.
“I remember watching The Last Dance with Michael Jordan and I was like ‘This guy thinks like I do’ because when I go into competition with these guys, that’s how I think,” Usman told reporters in the UFC 258 post-fight press conference after defeating Gilbert Burns. “My mind is different than these guys when we get in there. I see no face. That is my Octagon. He said I have something he wants and I’m coming to get it. What’s more personal than that?”
Additionally, both men are record-setters. For Jordan, it’s scoring records and NBA Finals MVPs. For Usman, it’s most consecutive welterweight wins and the highest winning percentage in the company’s history. But the one thing that perhaps Usman and Jordan have most in common is their clutch gene.
Time after time, Usman coolly makes his Octagon entrance and goes through the steps that transform him from Kamaru Usman to The Nigerian Nightmare. And without fail, his composure remains steady as a stone as he flows with the moment, unbothered by pressure, and effortlessly sinking every big shot the UFC has ever given him.
Saturday night, Kamaru Usman will have an opportunity to join all the greats who shook The Mecca to its foundation with their love of competition. What better place for Usman to put a stamp on his place as the pound-for-pound king than by beating his top rival in his first bout since reaching #1?
A case can be made that UFC 268 will be Kamaru Usman’s most high-pressure fight to date. He’s a sizable betting favorite against his toughest opponent and biggest rival. With another big-time performance, Usman can further prove that he is indeed the Michael Jordan of the UFC today. And at this rate, especially if the ol’ MSG magic gives him the rub, he may very well someday go down as the UFC’s Michael Jordan past and future: as the greatest of all time.