The “Nigerian Nightmare” descends on Las Vegas this weekend for what shapes to be one of MMA’s best fights of the year at UFC 235, to be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Kamaru Usman, the number two contender, takes on champion Tyron Woodley in a pick ’em fight that matches two of the best technicians in the game.
Usman says it has been many years since he visited the land of the birth – his family moved to the US when he was eight – but he still feels a strong connection to Nigeria.
“Absolutely,” he said in a call from Las Vegas this week. “All of my extended family is there while here in the US I’ve my parents, two brothers and sisters and two uncles.”
Now based in Dallas, he concedes that MMA is still growing in awareness in Nigeria and is happy to help “shed a light” that there is another big sport out there.
“You guys have a star,” he said of his countrymen, hoping they will tune in to watch the biggest moment of his seven-year professional career.
In Woodley, he will be facing a fighter making the fifth defence of his UFC belt, and a man rated among UFC’s top “pound-for-pound” performers.
Usman is under no illusions that he will be up against one of the division’s best, and a man who won’t be easily beaten.
“It’s gonna take everything [to win] . . . skills, heart. When everything is settled, I know he’s tough. I have to show him my heart and do whatever it takes.
“To fight me you have to be confident. I know I’m a hard guy to deal with. I’m tough for anybody.”
Six years removed from his last defeat, Usman says that he learned plenty from that reverse to Jose Caceres, which is underpinned by his outstanding 9-0 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said the man who was born in Benin City in Nigeria’s south. “I had just got into the sport, I didn’t know much. I was a wrestler and thought I was okay, but I had to learn to grapple and discover the intricacies of jiu-jitsu and kick-boxing. I took the time to learn everything. I can’t be caught – it will never happen again.”
In the co-headliner, two-time light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones will square off against Anthony Smith.
Broadcast details: SuperSport 11 will cross to Las Vegas at 05:00 on Sunday, 3 March 2019.