Just as one Usman has staked his declare as maybe the pound-for-pound finest fighter in the present day, one other Usman is about to make his first transfer on a much bigger MMA stage.
Mohammed Usman, younger brother to UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, is a rising prospect within the sport. He will make his Professional Fighters League debut Thursday at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., within the first leg of the PFL common season, when he’ll face Brandon Sayles as half of the ESPN-aired primary card.
But don’t suppose of the youthful Usman (7-1, 5 finishes) because the “little” brother. He’s a bona fide heavyweight who tipped the scales at 239 kilos on Wednesday. And don’t go in considering he’s the kind of heavyweight whose cardio falls off a cliff after a couple of minutes, if a end doesn’t materialize.
“They call me ‘The Motor’ for a reason,” Usman instructed The Post by way of Zoom on Tuesday. “… My coaches always say to me that I move like a welterweight, a middleweight, and I’m walking around at 240, 245 [pounds].”
Relative to his extremely completed brother, who final month punctuated his fourth title protection with an explosive knockout of Jorge Masvidal, 32-year-old Mohammed Usman nonetheless is early in a preventing profession that comes after the tip of his first skilled athletic pursuit: soccer. In reality, the youthful Usman didn’t even start to coach till greater than a 12 months after Kamaru received the twenty first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” kickstarting an unbeaten 14-fight-and-counting tenure competing within the UFC.
Kamaru Usman instructed The Post earlier than the win over Masvidal on April 24 that he’s all the time each extra excited and extra nervous for Mohammed’s fights than his personal. He additionally loves the truth that the heavyweight has discovered a house at the Colorado-based Elevation Fight Team, coaching alongside some of the highest massive males within the sport.
“His improvements have been outstanding,” Kamaru Usman stated. (*3*)
Mohammed Usman, who like his brother was born in Nigeria however largely grew up in Texas, performed defensive finish at the NCAA FBS stage, first at Houston and, after a cease at Navarro College in Texas, ending up at Arizona. As a senior with the Wildcats in 2011, he noticed motion in 11 video games, tallying 19 whole tackles, one sack and one compelled fumble.
While he harbored NFL goals, these didn’t work out for him. He wound up enjoying professionally in Sweden for a time earlier than shifting on from the game. But he appreciates the position soccer performed in “[setting] me up on this journey” in MMA.
“When that door closed [on football], and I saw that my brother was having a lot of success [in MMA], and I looked at my body and I’m like, ‘I can run and jump, so why waste this perfectly beautiful body God blessed me with by sitting around or trying to get a desk job?’ ” Usman says with amusing. “I said, ‘Let me go train, and let me go at it.’ And look where we’re at now: We’re here [in PFL].”
Usman, an completed highschool wrestler in Texas as soon as upon a time, started coaching towards an expert MMA profession close to the tip of 2016, roughly across the time his brother picked up his third UFC victory after profitable “TUF.” With nearly 5 months of coaching within the sport, he jumped immediately into the skilled ranks with a first-round submission win in May 2017.
“Wow, you didn’t do any amateur fights?” Usman remembers being requested at the time.
‘I’m already an expert soccer participant. Why downgrade myself to being an newbie fighter?” he responded. ”… We’re gonna get hit, amateurs or professional. So if I’m gonna get hit, I’m gonna get hit with a professional file.”
At first, every little thing within the cage felt as if shifting at warp velocity for Usman, drawing a comparability to when beginning out enjoying soccer, the game he knew for therefore lengthy.
“My eyes couldn’t calm down fast enough,” Usman stated. “Like, you’re seeing somebody in entrance of you, however you’re probably not seeing them. You know what I imply? Your eyes can’t give attention to the man in entrance of you to have the ability to land what you need.
“So I feel like, over time, I’ve finally evolved my game to where I can actually see this opponent in front of me, move around, see my punches landing on him. So it’s just really being able to control that anxiety that you get in the cage. And that’s where I’ve gotten so much better at.”
With the early regional part of his profession over, Usman begins his run in a significant promotion towards the 40-year-old Sayles (5-1, 4 finishes), a U.S. Army Combatives teacher who has not competed in additional than three years. Usman downplays his opponent’s extra superior age as an element, as an alternative praising the “mental fortitude” of Sayles.
Not that it issues to Usman, who believes his preventing model that’s predicated on advancing and being aggressive makes him totally different from Sayles’ earlier opponents.
“I come forward. A lot of guys that he’s fought run and circle around. That’s not me,” Usman says. “As soon as we start that fight, I’m going straight into his chest. And either he’s gonna back up, or we’re gonna be in the middle slugging.”
While Mohammed Usman has a protracted method to go to catch as much as his brother’s accolades, financial institution on the heavyweight Usman aiming to one-up him finally. He describes all of his siblings (together with brother Kashetu, a former collegiate soccer participant, and sister Ashlynn, who performed Division I volleyball) as rivals all the time trying to outdo each other. And he doesn’t thoughts at all pointing out a technique he topped Kamaru athletically years again.
“We’ll go into the wrestling room in our high school, and he got, what, third in state. I went and got second in state. So you’ll see his name, and then you’ll see my name ahead of his,” Usman says with a proud grin. “We battle one another, and it brings out the most effective in me.
“Just the competitive nature of us and our family and just how we are, it’s the driving force behind everything we do, which is so competitive that we don’t want to lose or fail in anything.”