For years now, Nigerian born- Kamaru Usman has been a man nobody in the UFC‘s welterweight division wanted to face.
But having won all nine of his fights in the organisation, his claim for a title showdown became undeniable and the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ completely outclassed Tyron Woodley last year to finally reach the top of the tree.
Now he’s the one calling the shots and Conor McGregor is firmly in his sights.
Usman’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz – who has a long and bitter history with McGregor as Khabib Nurmagomedov’s representative – teased the Irishman with the idea of a welterweight title fight on social media.
McGregor is uncharacteristically silent on the matter so far but Usman has taken the idea and run with it. He told ESPN: ‘I’m gonna give him the opportunity, if Conor wants, let’s do it. But Conor’s quiet now. Who says no to a title shot? I’ve never seen this in history, who says no when the champ says come and get your title shot?
‘Unless you know you have no chance in hell of winning. This might change the landscape of your fighting career ever. That’s the only chance I can see people saying “I’m going to pass on that title shot right there”.’
Now that the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ has established himself as the dominant force in the 170-pound division, winning his first title defence against Colby Covington last December, he’s in the market for money fights and there is no greater payday than a clash with McGregor.
Given the 33-year-old’s seven-year winning streak and perfect record in the UFC, Usman still flies somewhat under the radar without the credit he deserves.
A fight with McGregor would bring him unparalleled limelight and now seems an apt time to look at his ascent to the top.
As deduced from his nickname, Usman was born in Nigeria and spent the first eight years of his life there before moving to the United States.
He’s since reflected on humble beginnings, recalling that the family house didn’t really have plumbing, they had to walk to a well for water and electricity was notoriously unreliable.
Usman was given a tough time at school to start with given the language barrier but worked hard and his athletic ability was obvious. He began wrestling as a 15-year-old in high school and his record by the time he graduated was formidable, 53 wins and just three defeats.
He earned an athletic scholarship to college but in 2010, Kamaru and the Usman family were dealt a devastating blow as his father Muhammad was sentenced to 15 years in prison.