Kamaru Usman is no stranger to big short-notice fights, and he’s all set to step up and make a charge towards a UFC title in a second weight class.
Former UFC welterweight champion Usman is stepping in on just nine days’ notice to take on undefeated Khamzat Chimaev in a blockbuster new co-main event matchup at UFC 294.
Chatting to TMZ Sports, Usman said that he’s ready to go, and relishing the challenge that lies ahead of him in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s been a crazy 24 hours. But, you know, we made it happen. And the crazy thing is, I hate being put in this position, because this was supposed to be the fight,” he said.
“He’s a great, very, very good prospect, good contender. And he’s in my weight class, and so that fight naturally is what was supposed to happen.
“I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it. I’ve been ready for it, let’s do it.’ But of course, (there were) some things on his side about not being able to make the weight, and also from the UFC side – they have their plans. But now, (I’m) being put in a position to have to fly across the world, nine days, and make it happen. It’s not new to me, you know? People forget I did it in less than six days before. So, it ain’t nothing new. Fighters fight.”
The short-notice nature of the matchup may give some fighters a moment’s pause, especially when it involves a move up in weight to face an undefeated contender. But Usman said he’s ready to show up and show out on fight night.
“Well, I’m taking the fight on nine days notice, so I don’t have to get off that extra 20-something pounds as usual, and killing myself to do that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, he’s a big guy. Big, strong guy. But I’m also a big, strong guy. So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. As long as we both step on that scale (and) we weigh 185, we’ll step into that cage (and) we’re gonna make it happen. We’re gonna rumble.”
Usman usually preps for his fights in long training camps at altitude at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, under the guidance of coach Trevor Wittman. But recently, Usman has been at home in Florida while his main gym gets a refit. That’s not to say he hasn’t been getting quality work in, however, as he explained.
“I’ve been here in Florida, spending a lot of my time where it seemed like there was no fight inside. And right now we’ve been renovating our facilities out there in Colorado – we’re getting a newer shinier facility. So I’ve been here (in Florida) the majority of the time. So I haven’t been with Trevor recently,” he said.
“Being here, of course, I always have a home here. People forget Henry Hooft is here, so being able to get work with Henry Hooft. Jorge Santiago, my actual jiu-jitsu coach, Cosmo Alexandre, Muay Thai legend. I’ve been able to get work in with those guys. And you know, it was a it was an easy no-brainer.
“So, I made the call, I talked to Trevor, ‘Hey. What do you think?’ He doesn’t talk me out of it, and I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s go!’ any way you think he doesn’t talk me out of it. I’m like, Alright, let’s go. We’ll meet on over there, and let’s go do this!'”
Usman admitted that he’ll be stepping into the Octagon with a formidable foe in Abu Dhabi, but he said that whatever Chimaev brings to the table skills-wise, he will have him covered in all areas.
“He’s definitely talented, I mean, that’s why there’s a lot of excitement about him,” he said.
“Because we see these guys come in and a lot of different guys, and you just see something special about him. And we all know it. I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. So yeah, he’s very skilled.
“He’s strong, he’s big, he’s fast, he can wrestle, he can grapple, he can strike. He has everything. So do I. And, at the end of the day, we all human beings, and so everybody feels invincible until someone comes in and pokes that balloon.”
And, even though Usman is stepping up to 185 pounds to face Chimaev at UFC 294, that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him at welterweight. He still harbors the desire to recapture his old 170-pound title, but now he says the door is open to something very special.
“No, no! Absolutely not! And what a way to go out! What a way to decide that, you know, I might just mic drop,” he said
“Grab the middleweight belt, go down, grab the welterweight belt, then mic drop.
“What a way to go out. I want both. I’ve always wanted ‘champ champ’. But what a way (to do it) – to go get the top one, then come back down and get (the other one). No one’s ever done that!”