UFC fighter, Kamaru Usman believes growing up in Nigeria has been instrumental in his steady rise to the top of his sport. “I remember the streets, I remember having to walk what seemed like miles and miles and miles to fetch water from the wells with my grandmother,” he says. “I lived with my grandmother for a year when I was very young, and even to this day when I tell my mother events that took place, she can’t believe that I can recall that far.
“I recall a lot of it. I recall the hard work that my family went through just to continue to live the lifestyle that we were living, which wasn’t by any means a great lifestyle. It was just an amazing lifestyle to instill certain values in a child.”
Kamaru Usman is not the only fighter in his family. His younger brother, Mohammed, is also a fighter on the MMA heavyweight circuit with three wins and a loss to his name. When Usman isn’t preparing for the fight that could define his career, he tends to familial duties like taking his daughter to and from daycare. “You have to be able to find a balance [with your family].”
Although the odds are stacked him, expect Usman to fight to the end on Saturday, because that’s the only way he knows how to. In a CNN interview, Usman says he believes he could be welterweight champion by now if he had gotten the chance to fight Woodley as planned in September last year. Usman was penciled in as the backup for a fight between Woodley and English challenger Darren Till in America last year, amid fears that Till would not make the weight required to fight in the division.
Usman says he went on a grueling training camp and a strict diet to prepare for the potential fight.
In the end, the fight never happened as Till made the weight just a day before his bout with Woodley, which he eventually lost. Though disappointed not to get the chance, Usman is sanguine about the experience. “I believe in fate. I believe in karma. I believe in things like that,’ he says.
“I was ready and fully waiting to take full opportunity of that, but it didn’t happen, so hey, it’s not in God’s plan for me. Maybe God wanted me to get it a certain other way, but I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure that I’m a champion.” Usman is in good shape heading for the bout with Woodley after dominating Rafael dos Anjos, a former lightweight champion, over five rounds in December. The win over the Brazilian was Usman’s most important of his career till date, a huge signifier of his arrival on the big stage.