Kamaru Usman is the UFC welterweight champion and one of the best fighters regardless of weight division. According to the official P4P rankings, the Nigerian is ranked number two. Still, some publications have even placed him at the top of the list following his comeback win over Jorge Masvidal. On July 10 at UFC 264, Usman’s closest pursuers in the division, Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson will face off in a consensus fight, and you can bet on this fight at one of the bookmakers on Meta.reviews.
As is often the case with top athletes, The Nigerian Nightmare has had a challenging road to success. As a child, he had to walk dozens of miles searching for water, and his father watched Kamaru’s first MMA fight in prison. This article will talk about what Usman went through before reaching the pinnacle of mixed martial arts.
Childhood and youth
Our hero was born on May 11, 1987, in Auchi, the second-largest city in Edo State after Benin City in southern Nigeria. Like most Nigerians, the boy was brought up in a Muslim tradition and a strict reverence of God.
At the age of eight, Kamarudin moved with his family to the US, but he still remembers a difficult childhood in Africa. Usman Sr. was an officer in the Nigerian army. His mother struggled to combine work as a teacher with household chores. Their grandmother mostly looked after Kamarudin and his two brothers. Since Kamarudin was the eldest child, he had a lot of responsibility. The boy probably still remembers the feeling of thirst and a strict order from his grandmother to fetch water. She would hand him a canister and tell him not to return without water. Sometimes the boy had to walk more than fifteen kilometres away from home to find a spring or a well, and sometimes the search ended in vain. Even when water was found, it had to be purified before it could be used.
Kamaru’s duties did not end there; he also worked hard on his parents’ farm. The boy had been deprived of a carefree childhood, fun games, and other pastimes as his birthplace dictated its own strict rules. Today, the fighter remembers his early years in Africa without rancor. He says that Nigeria made him strong and taught him to fight to the end in all circumstances, never to give up.
The beginning of a sports career
Usman Junior’s sporting talent began to show at a very young age. Nature gave him impeccable physical attributes. He was tall, had strong arms, strong legs, and an overall powerful physique. Looking at him, no one would have guessed he was hungry and exhausted from doing hard labour. Developing as an athlete in Benin City was neither possible, he didn’t have the time nor energy.
When Kamarudin was about seven years old, his father travelled to the United States to study medicine there, namely to become a pharmacist. After staying in America for a while, his father decided to take the family home. Thus, at the age of eight, Kamaru travelled to the States, where he faced the challenge of adapting to the distinctive culture of the American countryside. Among all the problems, one stood out as the most serious – lack of knowledge of the language. Despite all this, the boy found common ground with local children and made friends.
At first, the boy opted for football, but one day he got an injury, making it impossible for him to continue playing the sport. Then he joined a wrestling group, where the first coach immediately recognised the boy’s talent. Curiously, the first victory on the wrestling mat the Nigerian won under the name of Martin. The thing is that the coach could not remember the African’s name, so he began to call him Martin.
Kamaru went headlong into wrestling, and he felt that it was his element, which is where he saw his future. Usman Jr. finished middle school with an incredible record – fifty-three victories and only three defeats. This was the best performance in the history of the school the Nigerian attended. Then the young man went to William Penn University, where he also continued his wrestling studies. At the University of Nebraska, he excelled more, winning the University of Nebraska Wrestling Championship. By the time he was twenty, he was already the United States College Wrestling Champion twice. He was even a candidate for the US Olympic team in 2012 but never made it to London.
Professional career in MMA
In 2012, Usman decided to switch from wrestling to mixed martial arts, as the amateur sport was not bringing him any income. Kamaru came to the prison where his father was locked up, after being arrested in 2009 for health care fraud, and received permission from him to start his professional career. He made his MMA debut at the RFA 5 tournament against David Glover. From the first minutes of the bout, the African took the initiative in his strong hands and managed to win a competitive bout.
After several fights in various promotions, the fighter decided to try his hand at The Ultimate Fighter show in season 14. He joined the Blackzilians and moved confidently towards his goal. In the final, Kamaru faced Hayder Hassan, who he choked out in the second round.
The Nigerian had his first fight in the UFC against Leon Edwards and defeated his opponent by unanimous decision. A string of notable victories followed, after which the fighter came up against Tyron Woodley.
The welterweight title was on the line. Although Woodley, who had been undefeated for four years, was the clear favourite, the Nigerian nightmare showed a real fight in the cage. He set the record in the history of welterweight title fights in terms of punches and time control. Incredibly, Tyron didn’t hold his opponent in the cage for a single second.
After the fight, Usman couldn’t hold back tears. He became the first UFC champion from Africa. In his arms with his daughter, he thanked his opponent for the fight and mentioned that he respected him.