The Nigerian-born Adesanya and Usman, as well as Cameroon native Francis Ngannou, are the only three African-born fighters to ever hold UFC titles. The fact that they’re doing so simultaneously — and are widely considered to be three of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport — has helped to usher in a new golden era for African MMA. All three champions have repeatedly pledged their support to each other and vowed not to fight within the trio, with the idea being that three African-born champions is better than two.
So it’s not surprising that Adesanya bristled when Usman’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, publicly called for Usman to move up in weight to challenge for Adesanya’s 185-pound title if Usman gets past top welterweight contender Leon Edwards in his likely return later this summer.
“It bothered [City Kickboxing head coach] Eugene [Bareman] as well, and it bothered me,” Adesanya said in a recent in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour. “I’m like, what the f*ck is this peanut head talking about? Because I’ve gone on record saying I don’t want this fight. We don’t want this fight, because it’s bigger than us. I understand where he’s coming from, don’t get me wrong. I understand where he’s coming from. But you can make tens of millions other ways. There’s so many other fights you can make. But he said he’s being selfish — I’m like, fair enough. And also, he just needs to give his fighters their phone back, like Kamaru has said, because sometimes he gets on there and starts to talk all this rubbish.
“This fight is not just going to happen just because, ‘Oh, it needs to happen, we need to see it.’ Nah, it’s bigger than us. The great nation of Africa, we’ve got three people who are champions right now and defending and ruling their divisions with iron black fists. This is legendary. They’re going to talk about this in history. Not sports history, they’re going to talk about this in sports history and just history in general. So why try and [ruin it]? We’re going to divide and conquer. So, Kamaru is his own person, Kamaru tells him when to f*ck off too.”
Adesanya (22-1) and Usman are both undefeated in the UFC at their respective weight classes, with “The Last Stylebender” winning all 11 of his middleweight bouts and Usman racking up a perfect 15-0 record at 170 pounds since making his promotional debut in 2015. The two natives of Nigeria are currently the two longest-reigning and most dominant male champions in the UFC today, with their nine combined title defenses dwarfing the number of shared title defenses for the UFC’s other six male champions (4).
Their collective success has been both unprecedented and historic in a sport where African-born fighters hadn’t found much mainstream success before their runs.
So Adesanya’s question to Abdelaziz is simple: Why ruin that?
“When I see Ali, he’s going to be cordial, he’s going to be nice. He’s never [not], there’s no static. He’s just doing his job. But that? Eugene knows how we feel about that,” Adesanya said.
“The way peanut head did it was just disgusting, and Eugene kind of expressed how we do it in our gym and the code that we have. And like I said, me and Kamaru definitely feel the same way. What’s the point? This is bigger than us. Kids are going to look at us generations from now and be like, ‘Those guys from Nigeria, they did that. They ruled. They ruled this whole thing until they left, and the left on top.’ Same with Francis as well. So yeah, I don’t know why he [did that]. And he always comes up to me, ‘Oh, my brother. My African brother,’ this and that. So I’m like, why? If you’re supposed to be a ‘brother, brother,’ why are you trying to be selfish now and look at the dollar signs?”