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TUF 30 winner Mohammed Usman reveals surgery that delayed his return to the UFC, now targeting April fight

UFC Fight Night: Usman v Pauga Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Mohammed Usman made quite an impact with his stunning knockout over Zac Pauga to become The Ultimate Fighter season 30 champion but that win came at a cost.

It turns out Usman suffered a broken thumb during the fight but he still managed to use that same hand to land the punch that put Pauga away just 36 seconds into the second round. It wasn’t until later that he realized his hand was actually injured, which then required him to undergo surgery to repair the damage done.

“I just went back to training but not too many people know, I had surgery on my thumb after that last fight,” Usman told MMA Fighting. “My thumb broke during that [fight] but you don’t feel any of that until the adrenaline wears off. They did an MRI and I ended up breaking my thumb and they had to reattach it with three screws.

“So that’s why people haven’t seen me back in the octagon because I had to have surgery on my thumb, put some screws in there, let it heal, and I had to get the screws removed. I’ve been back to training, been back in camp so I’m feeling amazing now. Just ready to get back in that cage.”

According to Usman, hand injuries are nothing new to him, especially after playing football for most of his life including his stint in college at the University of Arizona. Putting three screws into his thumb is probably the most invasive procedure he’s ever had done but Usman says the gnarliest injury actually came from a football game he played in high school.

“The ring finger on the same hand that I broke the thumb on, I remember I made a tackle and it got stuck in the guy’s helmet and he twisted and my finger basically twisted all the way around,” Usman said. “The [front] side was basically on the opposite side.

“I ran to the sideline and the coach twisted it back and I ran back. This was old school. Nowadays they make a big deal out of little injuries but back then my coach twisted it back and said get back in there and I just ran back in there and made the next tackle. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

While it was somewhat disappointing to delay booking his first official fight in the UFC after the reality show, Usman admits the time off was also good for him.

Enduring filming and production on The Ultimate Fighter for the better part of two months along with three total fights — his win in the finale along with two more on the show — left Usman ready for a break.

“People don’t understand the mental fortitude you have to have to even be in the house,” Usman said. “It’s not just the fighting. You have to fight people you’re living with. On top of that, you have to prepare for the finale. It was a lot of stress. A lot of things going on in my mind. People don’t understand how many times I fought last year.

“I went through a lot but I’m definitely ready to compete, ready to fight but it’s very tough. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and it’s definitely made me a better athlete and a better fighter when it comes to MMA.”

Now that the screws have been removed from his hand and he’s cleared to train again, Usman says he’s anxious to return to action but his full focus right now is helping his brother Kamaru Usman prepare for his upcoming title fight against Leon Edwards at UFC 286.

Usman will be traveling to London with his brother and then after that fight is finished, the attention will shift to him and his next fight in the UFC.

“I’m feeling great,” Usman said. “I’m currently in camp. My brother’s in camp right now, we’re in Denver, Colo. training. I’m actually feeling really good and we’re trying to get a fight through my manager Ali Abdelaziz, we’re trying to get a fight booked. Our time right now, we’re looking at early April.

“My brother’s going to fight March 18 so the focus right now is on him. He gets the job done and then I turn around and fight in early April. That’s the goal and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

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