weather icon Clear

New UFC champ Kamaru Usman hopes to make a difference — VIDEO

Updated March 3, 2019 - 5:00 pm

Kamaru Usman’s dominant performance in winning the welterweight title from Tyron Woodley at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 235 was the culmination of an improbable journey.

He hopes it can serve as an inspiration to others.

“I always envisioned hearing them say, ‘and new’ and wrapping that belt around me and thinking of all the things I was fighting for,” Usman said after becoming the first African-born champion in UFC history. “Not just for me and my family and not just the continent, but for everyone around the world that comes from humble beginnings and doesn’t know where their next meal is going to come from or if they’re going to get clean water the next day.”

Usman’s life has certainly followed an unlikely course. Born in Benin City, Nigeria, his family came to the United States when he was 8 years old and settled in Texas.

He started wrestling in high school and eventually won a Division II national title at Nebraska-Kearney. Usman started training in MMA after college and made his professional debut in 2012. After splitting his first two fights, he won his next four to earn a spot on Season 21 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which he also won.

Usman never looked back. His winning streak stands at 14 and his UFC mark is 10-0.

The 31-year-old brought former boxer Samuel Peter and former NFL running back Christian Okoye with him as special guests on Saturday night because they were the sports stars who inspired his generation of Nigerian kids. He hopes to take the baton from them and run with it.

Usman said he wants to use his platform to facilitate change and improve the lives of those in his native country.

“We’ve got some things cooking,” he said of his plans to organize a foundation. “In my village where I’m from, there’s still not running water everywhere. People are still struggling to get clean water.”

Usman recalls a stint of his childhood living with his grandmother when the closest well was several miles away.

“You’d walk all this way to get it and bring it home and you’d have to boil it because you never knew what parasites were in the water, so you had to boil it in order to be able to cook, wash your clothes or shower or anything. A lot of people are still suffering from water-borne diseases. … We want to create something where we can make life better for everyone.”

Those same good vibes don’t apply to Colby Covington, the likely first challenger for Usman. Covington has become one of the most polarizing figures in the sport with his bombastic trash-talking, but Usman isn’t laughing.

“I want to (expletive) that guy up so badly,” Usman said. “I can’t be in a room with that guy. I just can’t. I can’t wait to heal up and really put my hands on him. That’s one I’m going to enjoy brutalizing him.”

In the main event, Jon Jones retained the light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Anthony Smith. He still has hopes of fighting Brock Lesnar some day, but UFC president Dana White said heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier will get the first chance at Lesnar should the pro wrestling superstar return to the UFC.

Instead, White wants Jones to fight Thiago Santos. The Brazilian is 3-0 with three knockouts since moving up to light heavyweight.

“Thiago looks unbelievable at that weight,” White said. “He’s big and I like his fighting style. And when you put Jon Jones in those types of fights, Jones shines. Jones is one of those guys that rises to the level of his opponent.”

White also indicated he would book a rematch of a welterweight bout between Ben Askren and Robbie Lawler, which ended controversially when referee Herb Dean ruled Lawler had passed out in a bulldog choke despite Lawler’s immediate protests.

More MMA: Follow at CoveringTheCage.com and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Dana White on Contender Series contracts: "I'm looking for killers." - Video
On opening night at the UFC's newest facility, the UFC Apex, the promotion signed Punahele Soriano and Yorgan De Castro to contracts after their performances on Dana White's Contender Series. UFC president Dana White explains why he signed the fighters he did.
UFC Apex is the promotion's newest cutting-edge facility - VIDEO
The UFC Apex will officially open as Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series kicks off on June 19. Here's a look at what the promotion's newest facility in Las Vegas has to offer.
UFC President Dana White on the UFC Apex, ESPN deal, when Conor McGregor could return and more - Video
UFC President Dana White gave the Review-Journal an exclusive interview where he spoke about the promotion's new facility, the UFC Apex, their new deal with ESPN, when Conor McGregor may return to the octagon and more.
Shevchenko says defending the UFC flyweight belt is her number one challenge
UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko claimed the vacant title when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 last December. She will put the belt on the line for the first time in Chicago, Ill., when she faces Jessica Eye at UFC 238 on June 8.
UFC title contender Jessica Eye says her move to Las Vegas gives her an edge
Ohio native Jessica Eye says she moved to Las Vegas to get an edge in performance ahead of facing UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 in Chicago, Ill., on June 8.
Greg Hardy, former NFL star, on MMA knockout
The former NFL star needed just 17 seconds to score a knockout on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series (Adam Hill/Review-Journal)
Marlon Moraes says Henry Cejudo will regret stepping up to bantamweight - VIDEO
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is coming up to the bantamweight division to battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant belt on June 8 at UFC 238. Moraes said Cejudo will regret going after a second title in a new division and added that he thinks his path will cross with former champion TJ Dillashaw in the future.
Paige VanZant details her arm injury, when she can return - VIDEO
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was briefly linked to fight at UFC 236, but had to withdraw from the bout due to a broken arm. As a guest on the RJ Ringside Podcast, she detailed the injury and also spoke about joining the M-1 Global booth as a color commentator.
Tony Ferguson beats Donald Cerrone by TKO at UFC 238

Tony Ferguson’s path to the lightweight title is becoming clear. Ferguson won by technical knockout after a medical stoppage in a lightweight fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 on Saturday night.