Usman: Potential jump to 205 for title fight about earning respect
UFC welterweight king Kamaru Usman cemented his name among the division's all-time greats with a spectacular run as champion, earning five title defenses since winning the belt in 2019.
Despite his success, Usman believes the media and fans fail to give him his due. To shut down his naysayers once and for all, the 35-year-old is considering an unprecedented leap to light heavyweight - skipping the middleweight division entirely - to earn double-champion status.
"A lot of times nowadays, everyone's throwing this, 'GOAT, greatest of all time.' That's relative. … I'm just a competitive guy," Usman told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "I got into sports and I just realized it was something burning inside me that I wanted to compete and compete. I wanted to best that guy. This is the ultimate - mano a mano - this is the sport to do it."
"With respect to that, I want to be respected," he added. "So, when I get in there and I bested everyone, I want you to show me that respect. … Everyone says 'pound-for-pound,' but that's just a scenario. You just throw that out, 'If they were the same weight class, could this guy best that guy?' And I want to prove that. I want to be able to do that. No one's ever done it. If I can do that, hey, you put whatever title you want to put on it, but ultimately, I want the respect."
Usman seemingly wants to avoid 185 pounds because of his close friendship with champion Israel Adesanya, the only other Nigerian titleholder in the UFC.
He first teased the idea of moving to 205 pounds in January, saying he eyed a fight with then-champion Jan Blachowicz in 2021. The light heavyweight title has changed hands often recently, with Glover Teixeira taking the belt from Blachowicz last October before losing it to Jiri Prochazka during his first title defense in June.
However, Usman could face a significant wait for a potential shot at the 205-pound strap.
Prochazka and Teixeira are reportedly slated for a rematch in December. Blachowicz is pushing for a chance to regain the championship after bouncing back with a win over Aleksandar Rakic, while the likes of Magomed Ankalaev and Jamahal Hill have put their names into the title picture with impressive win streaks.
Usman will face Leon Edwards in a rematch at UFC 278 on Saturday and is looking to break a tie with Adesanya for the most title defenses among active male champions (five).