With a 12-1 professional MMA record and an unbeaten streak that’s going on five years, Kamaru Usman is one of the UFC’s most must-watch prospects.
Going seven for seven in his UFC appearances after winning season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, Usman has quietly etched out a dominating record that could see him working his way into the title picture soon. Though his home in the welterweight division means there’s plenty of high-ranking competition out there, Usman has consistently shown the ability to pull out victories.
But his unanimous decision win over Emil Weber Meek in January of this year didn’t earn him a ton of support from spectators in the crowd – whether they were fans or UFC management.
After using his wrestling to score a dominant but somewhat uneventful victory on the January card, Usman was greeted with a chorus of boos from the disinterested crowd in his post-fight interview. His choice of words may not have helped – in the same speech where he showed interest in sitting and talking with UFC president Dana White about his next move, Usman said he was performing at about 30 percent.
The speech led to a plethora of memes and jokes within the MMA community, with “30-percent Usman” quickly becoming the fighter’s new nickname among critics. It’s a tongue-in-cheek sentiment, and far less intimidating than his moniker of “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
White said he didn’t love the fight but was more critical of Usman’s comments about giving less than his all. He called it one of the most ridiculous things he’d ever heard anyone say.
But Usman said his comments were misconstrued.
He said: “I meant I literally was maybe 30-percent of my abilities, but of course, when you have a president that is so powerful like Dana White and he goes out in the media and says what he says, everyone just jumps on it. So once Dana said that, it was just the backlash of it and whatnot, but what I meant to say was I was at 30-percent health.”
Usman said that White taking it the wrong way meant fans would follow suit. He also expressed frustration with certain conditions of the fight, such as facing a fighter with only one UFC win despite being ranked in the top 15.
He also said health issues impacted his performance, as well as scheduling issues stemming from Meek’s issues with getting a Visa.
After his lackluster win, Usman called out welterweight contender Colby Covington. However, Covington was announced to be (tentatively) facing Rafael dos Anjos for the interim welterweight championship at UFC 224.
But Usman won’t be missing out on competition. He’s scheduled to meet Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Chile on May 19. There is speculation the winner could inch closer toward title contention, but Usman says no matter what, he’ll be giving way more than 30 percent in his next bout. A dominant performance could erase the backlash he received for his last fight.