Kamaru Usman is smart enough to learn from the mistakes others have made before him.
As he was scratching and clawing his way up the welterweight ladder, the Ultimate Fighter 21 winner always kept his eyes on the ultimate prize but never looked past the next opponent standing in front of him. Usman eventually took out every fighter ahead of him until finally earning his opportunity to compete for gold against then-welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
In the days and weeks leading up to that fight, Usman heard Woodley often talk about his standing in welterweight history as he staked a claim to be considered the greatest of all time after chasing a fight against former champion Georges St-Pierre for several years. Woodley never got that opportunity, not only because St-Pierre was retired but because Usman later dealt him a lopsided loss over five rounds to claim UFC welterweight gold.
As Usman stands on the precipice of his third title defense at UFC 258 after already dispatching Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal in his past two fights, he appreciates any compliments he receives about the legacy he’s building but don’t expect to ever hear him touting any claims that he’s the best to ever do it.
“Honestly, I don’t look at that. I don’t think about that,” Usman told MMA Fighting. “I don’t think about stuff like that. I remember when Tyron Woodley was saying those things, he’s the greatest welterweight of all time and this and that. Of course he’s in that conversation but that’s not something you bestow upon yourself. That’s not something I want to think about and say I’m this, I’m that.
“No, I go out there and I do my job. I take it one fight at a time and then when I am done over time people look at your body of work and say ‘wow, look what he did, look who he got through, he fought everyone and he made them look like this and he fought them and did them this way.’ I’m not the one who’s going to go out there and put that label on myself but if you actually look at my resume and when I’m said and done and you’re like ‘he 50-43’d this guy, 50-44’d this guy, he did this to that guy, man, that’s the greatest of all time.’”
Looking back at Woodley’s reign as champion while consistently addressing his desire to be considered the best in the history of the division served as a warning sign to Usman.
According to Usman, those kinds of conversations do nothing but serve as a distraction to the task at hand while also ratcheting up undue pressure when the only thing that really matters is winning the next fight in front of him.
“I felt that with that Tyron Woodley situation,” Usman explained. “I felt like towards the end, he put so much pressure on himself as that, as ‘I’m the greatest welterweight of all time, I’m this and that’ to where it’s almost like I’m sitting here, I know something you don’t know. I know that I’m better and you’re sitting here and you’re worry is that you’re the greatest welterweight of all time? It is what it is. But you’re going to take an ‘L’ on this one.
“It’s not one of those things that I’m putting by the wayside or not paying attention to. I am paying attention to it. I’m making sure that each and every fight, I’m fully aware of what’s in front of me.”
If he’s able to dispatch Gilbert Burns in his next fight on Feb. 13, Usman will already hold wins over four of the top-five ranked fighters in the welterweight division but that doesn’t mean his work is finished.
Usman will then turn his attention to the next person gunning for his title and he’ll let everybody else worry about the “greatest of all time” debate.
“I’ll let people make that conclusion,” Usman said. “That’s not something I bestow upon myself. That’s not something I’m worried about right now.
“Right now, I’m just worried about who is the next guy in front of me and just going out there and making sure that I get that win.”