The recognition isn’t coming around fast enough for UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman.
The South Florida-based native of Nigeria has been downing opponents left and right, but only now, after a first-round knockout of Sergio Moraes that upped his UFC record to 6-0, is he starting to get the type of media attention his record should command.
But the UFC has yet to put their full promotional power behind Usman in a manner like they have for some other fighters who have accomplished less in the cage, and he’s wondering why.
“I don’t know if they think, well he’s from Nigeria, you know?” Usman said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “We haven’t really broken into that market yet or we can’t sell a lot of fights there or we don’t have a TV contract there, so what’s the point of pushing a guy that’s from that area in Africa. I’d like to think that’s what it is, because it can’t be anything else.”
Usman is still having a little bit of trouble getting some of the bigger names in the division to meet with him, and with that in mind, he has a target for his next fight: Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos is in the welterweight title discussion after just two fight in the division, and that doesn’t sit well with Usman.
“You bring in RDA after taking two Ls in lightweight, he moves up, he fights [Tarec] Saffiedine who was ranked I think 14th while I was ranked 10th at the time,” Usman said. “You bring in a guy who was ranked below me and he went to a decision with that guy. He goes to a decision and then the rankings come out and RDA is ahead of me. How much sense does that make?
“And then he fights Neil Magny who I have been calling out for a long time,” Usman continued, “who somehow seemed to find a way to duck me, and then fights Neil Magny and finishes Neil Magny in four minutes and I just killed a guy who also finished Neil Magny faster than he did in the first round. What sense does that make?”
So the way Usman sees it, he dos Anjos should square off to settle things. But it sounds like Usman isn’t holding his breath waiting to happen.
“I will be unhappy if RDA ducks me,” Usman said. “I will be very unhappy. He’s the one. He’s sitting at No. 5, which I think currently I should be. I think I could beat the champion. But right now No. 5 needs to be next to my name. ... RDA needs to see me, and if he ducks me like I know he will try to, then we’ll see what makes sense.”
And that’s where things get a little tricky. There’s no point in Usman beating up on opponents ranked below him any more. But most of the fighters ranked ahead of him at the moment have something else lined up while champion Tyron Woodley rehabs a shoulder injury. Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia are meeting at UFC 217; Demian Maia recently signed to fight Colby Covington, and Robbie Lawler is Usman’s training partner, so they’re not in a rush to fight each other.
One name that keeps coming up, should an RDA fight not pan out: bombastic knockout artist Mike Perry.
“I think Mike Perry is a guy the fans actually care about,” Usman said, “And I think Mike Perry is a guy that actually tries to fight, so he’s going to want to fight. Hopefully he won’t duck me himself.”
Another potential wild card? Former WEC champ and UFC interim champ Carlos Condit, who recently tweeted about a potential return after a year’s hiatus.
“If that’s something that he’s interested in, I’m not saying no,” Usman said. “He was once the interim champion of the division so that’s definitely a fight that, for me, I want the fight thats going to get me that title shot. I think I’m deserving of it.”
Either way, Usman knows he’s ready to become a star, if only the UFC gives him the opportunity.
“You can’t say I don’t have the skills,” he said. “You can’t say I don’t have the confidence. I have that. You can’t say I don’t have the belief, I have that. I’m not the ugliest guy in the world. It’s not that I’m not marketable. C’mon.”