Kamaru Usman: Paving the Way for (and to) a Continent

Kamaru Usman
Image Credit: Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It does not take a deep investigation to see that the UFC is firmly behind Darren Till. After one victory over a ranked opponent (Donald Cerrone), the UFC went ahead and gave Till the main event spot in the promotion’s debut in Till’s hometown of Liverpool, England against then #1 ranked Stephen Thompson. And after missing weight for that bout in which he was victorious, they have now granted Till a title shot at UFC 228 against Tyron Woodley. Through it all, Kamaru Usman and his 8-0 UFC record is quite literally on the sidelines, as he now lies in wait prepared to fill in if Woodley or Till cannot make it to the event. Despite Till getting this push from the UFC, Usman is taking it all in stride:

“I don’t take it personally to where I hate Darren Till or this and that – absolutely not; it’s not his fault at all,” Usman said in an interview with FanSided. “Darren Till is a fighter – he’s doing what he can.

“I just feel like the promotion sees it as a market that is hungry and they’ve got kind of a leg in right now, where they’re trying to do some things in that market right now and it would serve them perfectly to have a champion from that market. I felt that they were going to do everything that they could to get him to that title fight.

“It’s a simple transition for them to get in that market with Darren Till because guys like Bisping have already paved that trail. They just need a new face and he’s doing a good job of being that guy, so more power to him.”

Kamaru Usman believes what Bisping did for the UK market, he could do the same for the African market. He just needs the promotion to see the reality of the continent’s potential:

“As far as Africa, I kind of feel like they don’t know how to go about it,” Usman said. “It’s not that Africa doesn’t have the capabilities – we absolutely do have the capabilities – it’s really just having them invest the time.

“There is only so much they can continue to go without sitting down and saying, ‘We need to take a look at Africa here’ because when you’ve got guys like myself that close to the title, a guy like Franics (Ngannou) so close to the title and now you’ve got guys like Israel Adesanya so close to the title, making waves, that’s a conversation we’re going to have to have soon.

Kamaru Usman is honored to be someone who can make history and bring the UFC to, hitherto, a completely neglected market and continent and playing an integral role in what would be an achievement that is the stuff legend is made of:

“It’s a blessing to be there in the forefront, and I just can’t wait to see how many more Nigerians continue to blaze that path and takeover the sport,” Usman said. “It means a whole lot. Very rarely do you get to be that guy that is placed in that situation to pave the way, so it means a whole lot to see the rise of it.

“Fighting is something that we all do around the world, especially in those African countries, those African nations. Fighting is something that is engrained in us. Obviously, Africa is a Third World continent where there is so much poverty. There’s wealth, but there is a vast amount of poverty, so at the end of the day, the only thing that you can do is continue to fight for not just what you’re doing, but also for your life.

“So when that way is paved and they realize, ‘We can do this,’ and there is a way to do it and, ‘We can get to that level,’ Africa is going to flood the sport.

“In those countries, in those nations, when you go away into different countries, you start to see that wash away – the roots, the language, the heritage. So when our Africans are able to hear that people that are being raised in other parts of the world still have their roots, still can speak the language, it gives them hope.

“It gives them life being able to hear that because it lets them know, ‘We’ve got people. We’ve got descendants all over the world, and they’re making waves.’ It means a whole lot. It means a lot to me as well to be able to do that.”

Kamaru Usman has already voiced his belief that somehow, someway, the stars will align and the world will see him become the UFC champion on September 8th. When that day passes, Usman will have the opportune moment to lead the historic voyage to his native land:

“After September 8th, we’re going to have to have that conversation.”

Would Kamaru Usman becoming world champion motivate the UFC take a serious look at coming to Africa?