Speaking with John Morgan of MMA Underground ahead of Usman’s commentary duties at Eagle FC 47, “The Nigerian Nightmare” was asked about fighting Khamzat Chimaev following the latter’s win over Gilbert Burns at UFC 273.
While Usman isn’t looking past his expected title defense against Leon Edwards, he did acknowledge some of the top welterweights currently knocking at the door of a title shot.
“There’s a lot of guys right there (at the top of the division),” Usman said. “Belal Muhammad is there, Chimaev is there, Covington is still there holding that door strong. And so at this point, Covington is standing right in front of that door.”
Currently the UFC’s #1-ranked welterweight contender, Colby Covington has unsuccessfully challenged for Usman’s title on two occasions. The welterweight champion stopped Covington in the fifth round of their 2019 bout for his first title defense, and he most recently won a unanimous decision over “Chaos” at UFC 268.
Covington rebounded from that second loss to Usman with a unanimous decision win against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272. Two of his three career losses are to the current welterweight champion, and the former-interim title holder was at one point on a seven-fight win streak leading up to his first shot at Usman’s title.
When considering the new crop of welterweight contenders, Usman believes that anyone looking to challenge for his belt needs to fight Covington first.
“And for it to really make sense, for anyone to be able to get through (the door), they need to go through him because he’s proven that he can beat everybody else, but he just can’t beat me. So for you to prove that you can fight for the title, I think it needs to go through that guy.”
Rising welterweight contenders Khamzat Chimaev and Belal Muhammad both vaulted into the UFC’s welterweight Top 5 with their most recent victories. With #2-ranked Edwards expected to challenge Usman next and #4-ranked Gilbert Burns coming off a loss to Chimaev, both men find themselves with limited options to continue climbing the ranks.
If either Chimaev or Muhammad want to solidify their case for a title shot, they may have to follow the champion’s advice and face Covington first.
What do you think of Usman’s comments? Should the next welterweight contender have to fight Colby Covington before earning a title shot?