CAPE TOWN – Stand up Africa! Stand up and support your “Boi”.
It’s time for yet another African athlete to carry the continent’s fighting pedigree proudly, as Kamaru Usman takes on one of the most elite MMA athletes the world has seen.
The ‘Nigeria Nightmare’ will challenge the UFC’s welterweight king Tyron Woodley (19-3-1) on Saturday night at UFC235 in Las Vegas, in one of the most exciting cards the billion-dollar organisation has produced so far.
In the last main event, Israel Adensanya (16-0-0) raised the motherland’s name proudly as he got the ‘W’ over arguably the best MMA athlete the world has seen yet after beating Brazil’s Anderson Silva (34-9-0) down in Australia.
Following that victory, Israel made his desires known that it’s time the UFC heads to Africa soon.
And a title win for Usman tomorrow night could turn the volume up even more, encouraging the biggest MMA organisation to make their debut in Africa.
It’s been years since Usman has been ‘home’, but he still feels a very strong connection to his place of birth.
“Absolutely, all my extended family is there, while my parents are in the US, along with my brothers and sisters.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I always knew I was destined for something great.
“Once we emigrated, I had to assimilate and partake in the sports that were big in the US, and I found wrestling, and that is when I realised what I wanted to do,” said Usman.
The number two contender concedes that he is happy to shed a light on MMA in his homeland, which is more synonymous with football, basketball and Dambe boxing.
“You guys have a star,” he said of his countrymen, hoping they will tune in to watch the biggest moment of his seven-year pro career.
And he will need all the cheers and screams he can get as he takes on a man rated among the UFC’s top ‘pound-for-pound’ performers – a man who will be defending his belt for the fifth time.
Woodley is a sniper, a calculating marksman who knows when and how to use his energy.
His brain is backed up by a strong all-round game. He is someone who can easily beat his opponent with timing, as he likes to counter the next move.
He has been training with world-renowned wrestler Ben Askren to sharpen up his already strong ground game.
“It’s going to take everything to win... skill, heart. When everything is settled, I know he’s tough. I have to show him my heart, and do whatever it takes,” said Usman.
“To fight me, you have to be confident. I know I’m a hard guy to deal with. I am tough for anybody.”
Usman, who trains out of the Hard Knocks 365 gym after the Blackzilians were disbanded, came as a wrestling disciple to the sport of MMA, before adding more tools to his arsenal.
Now he steps into the octagon as an athletic, quick and aggressive warrior, with an incredibly quick transitioning ability.
Will a clear and calculating mind followed by natural strengths see Usman break the record books tomorrow?
And will it could be the beginning of beautiful times as fighters such as Israel (Adesanya), Don Madge (South Africa) and Champion Dalcha (DRC) look to follow in his footsteps and bring some titles ‘home’.
* This card will be headlined by the light-heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Anthony Smith.
Diego Sanchez vs Mickey Gall, Cody Stamann vs Alejandro Perez, Misha Cirkunov vs Johnny Walker, Jeremy Stephens vs Zabi Magomedsharipov.
Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz, Tecia Torres vs Weili Zhang, Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman, Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith.
* Broadcast details: SuperSport 11 (channel 211) will cross to Las Vegas at 5am on Sunday morning.@juliankiewietz