This weekend, the UFC heads to Utah for its first pay-per-view in the “Beehive State,” and will bring with it a blockbuster 170-pound headliner between 2015 foes Usman and Edwards. When the pair met seven years ago, “The Nigerian Nightmare” used his imposing wrestling to secure victory on the scorecards.
Now, with both men unbeaten in a combined 23 fights since, they’ll run it back in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena with Usman’s gold on the line.
While many acknowledge that Edwards will pose a unique threat to Usman on the feet, with the Brit’s compatriot Michael Bisping even backing him to upset the champ on August 20, some are already looking beyond “Rocky” in Usman’s title reign.
Expecting “The Nigerian Nightmare” to dispatch Edwards again, they’re looking ahead to a potential collision between Usman and rising star Khamzat Chimaev.
And although he’s not setting his sights beyond the task ahead of him this Saturday, the welterweight king has commented on the Chechen-born Swede’s close presence behind his next challenger in the pecking order.
Usman: I’d Be Lying To Pretend Chimaev Isn’t Bigger
During a recent interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, Usman insisted that he won’t be writing Edwards off like some fans and pundits in the MMA community.
But nevertheless, he noted that he’s always looking towards the next “moment” that he can live and add to his legacy, and by all accounts, that’s set to be a meeting with “Borz” for whoever leaves UFC 278 with the belt.
“Now I’m fighting Edwards, which I believe is extremely tough. He’s very, very skilled and very good. But he’s maybe not as known and not as popular, so people kind of write it off,” Usman said. “I don’t, I still have to deal with that pressure. But it’s like, okay, after that, where are the moments? What are the moments that are big enough.
“Now, there’s another guy people are excited about. People are like, ‘No, that’s the guy, That’s the guy that’s gonna get you.’ That’s another moment,” Usman added.
When asked whether he expects to be motivated more for a potential date in the cage with Chimaev, who secured a place in the top five by outpointing Gilbert Burns earlier this year, Usman insisted that Saturday’s headliner is a big fight and warrants just as tough a training camp as any of his defenses.
However, the champ did admit that, given the fanfare and global attention that’ll be on a clash with Chimaev, it’s hard to deny that he’ll “get up” more for it.
“The Leon one is big to me,” Usman said. “I’m awake. Every camp is tough. I train just as difficult for every camp. So that is tough. Mentally, I’m still there. There might not be as much noise behind it, but I’m up… Khamzat, if that fight does come about, I have to have the ability not to get wrapped up in what’s gonna happen.
“I would be lying if I said that I won’t be getting up much more for that one, because, hey, everywhere I go, people are gonna say — like Covington 1, everywhere I went in the world, people brought it up. So, it’s almost impossible not to get up for it,” Usman admitted. “So, yeah, it’s almost gonna be impossible to say I won’t get up a little bit more for it. But I have to have the ability to restrain myself.”
While Usman will have to add a second victory over Edwards to his record this weekend before the much-discussed meeting with Chimaev, the #3-ranked contender has a main event of his own coming up.
He’ll collide with Nate Diaz in the UFC 279 headliner, and should he extend his unblemished record on September 10, Chimaev could be next in line to face Usman — a bout that will mark the next step on his pursuit of multi-weight glory.
What do you make of Kamaru Usman’s comments?