Kamaru Usman learned the hard way after his last fight that MMA fans aren’t interested in hearing excuses.
He also learned that the brass isn’t necessarily going to have his back when criticism starts pouring in.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” is undefeated in seven UFC appearances and he’s won 11 consecutive fights overall, but much of the chatter surrounding his most recent victory over Emil Meek at UFC St. Louis in January centered around his post-fight comments. Usman used his wrestling to earn a clear-cut unanimous decision, a result that wasn’t enough to satisfy some of the fans who booed him during his post-fight interview in which he stated that he fought Meek “sitting at about 30 percent”.
UFC president was critical of Usman’s comment afterward, saying that it was “ridiculous” for the welterweight to talk about his own performance that way.
During an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday, Usman explained why he felt justified to express himself the way he did following the win.
“I don’t regret saying it because I spoke from my heart,” Usman said. “When you get done with the fight, especially that fight, because there was a lot of frustrating things happening that led up to that fight. (Meek) comes in the UFC, he’s riding a 1-0 decision, and you’re giving him to a top-15 guy like myself because nobody else above me wants to fight with me. So that itself already irked me, irritated me, and then I couldn’t get anybody else.
“Then he had Visa issues, the fight was off, cancelled, then the fight was rescheduled. I got sick through the process. On top if it, I get these really serious injuries that hindered me from performing the way that I want to perform. So when everyone’s thinking, ‘Oh that guy’s so tough, you couldn’t stand with the guy’ — if you go back and watch the fight, just keeping the fight standing, I hit him whenever I wanted to hit him. I just had some injuries that didn’t allow me to feel comfortable in that position, which is why the fight ended up going to the ground and I had to resort to beating him up on the ground.
“But with that being said, after the fight you get really emotional, and that fight was really emotional for me because I kind of felt like I was being set up to fail in a sense, but I went through the fight anyways and still dominated a really tough guy.”
Usman thinks that his words wouldn’t have been met with such a strong backlash were it not for White’s interpretation making the rounds. He wants to clarify that the “30 percent” comment was in regards to his health, not his level of effort that evening.
Unfortunately for Usman, that is not how White perceived it, and the boss’ influence only added fuel to the flames.
“I meant I literally was maybe 30-percent of my abilities, which is what I stated, but of course, when you have a president that is so powerful like Dana White and he goes out in the media and says what he says, everyone just jumps on it. I swear if Dana says that, ‘You know what? An earthquake is going to happen tomorrow,’ everyone’s going to jump on it, ‘Oh, an earthquake’s going to happen tomorrow.’ That’s just the way that these UFC fans are.
“So once Dana said that, it was just the backlash of it and whatnot, but what I meant to say was I was at 30-percent health. Dana took it the wrong way, so fans took it the wrong way.”
Up next for Usman is the main event of UFC Chile on May 19, where he fights fellow welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio. A title shot could await the winner, and Usman is guaranteeing that there won’t be any concerns about him putting anything less than his best foot forward this time.
“I am what I am, I don’t regret anything,” Usman said. “There’s a blessing in everything that happens to us. Yes, of course, it’s getting kind of old, because every time you look at one of my pictures, comments or anything like that, all fans seem to want to talk about is 30 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent. So after that Dana said, ‘Will you go 60 percent next time?’ He can expect me to go way more than 30 percent this next fight, that’s for sure.”