Through his Octagon success, business wherewithal, and blockbuster boxing collision with Floyd Mayweather, McGregor has undoubtedly cemented his status as MMA’s biggest superstar.
That’s certainly been evident in the ongoing discourse surrounding the Irishman’s return to the cage, which comes off the back of a 1-3 record since 2016 and back-to-back defeats in 2021. Despite his form, few topics have drawn as many eyes and talking mouths as McGregor’s comeback.
While many were initially expecting the 33-year-old’s 2022 return to come at lightweight, the weight at which Dustin Poirier beat him twice last year, McGregor revealed he’s targeting another foray in the welterweight division later this year, setting his sights on “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
While fellow UFC champs Charles Oliveira and Alexander Volkanovski have previously embraced potential bouts with McGregor, Usman has mostly laughed it off.
Discussing McGregor’s callout in an interview with Sky Sports, the 170-pound titleholder suggested the Dubliner was simply attempting to stay relevant by mentioning his name, something he vowed to not take seriously.
According to one veteran of the sport, Usman’s strategy is a good one.
Sonnen: Usman Is Doing Everything Right After McGregor Callout
During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sonnen, a former two-division UFC title challenger, praised Usman for being the “first fighter” to avoid falling for McGregor’s bait.
“Red panty night is real guys, make no mistake. Red panty night is still a very real thing. And everybody falls for it, except for Kamaru Usman,” said Sonnen. “Literal statement: Everybody in MMA has fallen for any kind attention that Conor McGregor has shown to be matched up with them, and I mean across the board. And you have to, right? What else are you gonna do? Turn down the biggest opportunity of your life?
“Usman’s saying no, but he has to say no. He’s doing everything right here,” claimed Sonnen. “First off, I don’t believe that Usman thinks that fight is going to happen. Second off, if Usman gets called to go to that fight, that fight is going to happen. Usman does not give a damn, but he can’t show that he’s going to take this bait.”
Recalling the height of McGregor’s social media “trolling,” Sonnen noted that the Irishman would routinely make fools out of fighters by mentioning their name one week and moving on to another figure the next.
In responding to McGregor’s callout in the way he has, Sonnen believes Usman is “saying all the right things.”
“Conor was trolling… he got on a roll. Seven weeks in a row, there was a UFC, and Conor took to social media to call out somebody on the heels of it. He stole seven press conferences, two of which were pay-per-views,” recalled Sonnen. “Dana sits down at seven different press conferences… The media does not ask Dana about what just happened or what’s going to happen for these athletes… They start asking, ‘Well, Conor McGregor was tweeting…’
“13 people in total that Conor dangled this in front of one time. Conor had to do one tweet. They then kept Conor’s name out there for six more days before Conor changed his mind and moved on to somebody else. So when I tell you that Kamaru Usman is literally the first person to not fall for this, it’s very important,” Sonnen continued. “I love how Kamaru’s playing it. He’s saying, ‘No, he’s irrelevant, he doesn’t matter, don’t ask me about Conor McGregor.’ He’s saying all the right things.”
When a lightweight comeback was anticipated, 155-pound king Oliveira was more than willing to allow McGregor to skip the queue. Despite Justin Gaethje being signaled as the number one contender following UFC 268, “Do Bronx” revealed he was targeting a May contest with McGregor.
In a similar vein to the instances recalled by Sonnen, McGregor has since shifted all of his focus off the Brazilian and onto a new weight class entirely. Perhaps having seen that, Usman has taken a different approach.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” has frequently reiterated that a rematch with Leon Edwards is his next step as champ. Beyond that, the likes of Khamzat Chimaev and Belal Muhammad recently staked their claims for title shots of their own.
But should the UFC come calling with a McGregor fight offer, Sonnen expects the welterweight kingpin to sign on the dotted line.
How do you think Conor McGregor would fare against Kamaru Usman?