UFC Featherweight Sodiq Yusuff Looking to Inspire Nigerians: “A Rising Tide Raises All Ships”

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Having earned his second win in the UFC, Sodiq Yusuff believes he can inspire fellow Nigerians.

Undefeated in his past four fights, having won two straight in the UFC, Sodiq Yusuff is on a roll. After coming off another successful outing at UFC Philadelphia, he has his next goal set: International Fight Week. Cageside Press caught up with Super Sodiq this week following his big win in Philly, and he made clear that the UFC’s crown jewel of summer is an event he’s interested in.

“I think everybody’s shooting for that, man. I hope I can get on,” he exclaimed.

He certainly has a shot. One of the bright young talents in the UFC’s featherweight division, Yusuff (9-1) was lighting Sheymon Moraes up with calf kicks in the opening round of their fight in Philly. He’d go on to win a unanimous decision in the bout, making him two for two in the big show.

Moraes didn’t make it easy, either. By the second round, he’d adjusted to the kicking attack of Yusuff. “He started pulling back a lot. It’s hard to check, so he wasn’t checking as much, he was like cross-checking with his other leg, but he was mostly stepping off. Which is really the only way to deal with it, to step off out of the way.”

The Brazilian is a Mauy Thai veteran, but Sodiq was able to keep the pressure on. He stayed calm, and refused to become frustrated hunting for the finish. “I have finishing power, but it’s not something I’m expecting,” he explained. “When I hit people, it’s not like ‘okay, he’s going to drop on this one, he’s going to drop on this one.’ I try to stay away from that kind of mentality.”

The reason for that is simple. “If you’re banking on that too much, you’re going to leave yourself wide open. You’re going start throwing too much on each punch.”

A smart take for a young fighter. But Yusuff has a lot to fight for. His family back in Nigeria, for starters. It was talked up a lot during fight week, but it can’t be understated.

Yusuff has a pile of gifts he’s sending back home to Nigeria to support them after his latest win. “Each fight, I try to give something back. I wasn’t able to get the bonus this time, last time I got the bonus, and I was able to make a lot of people happy. But it’s still good enough. That’s why I’m happy I’m in the UFC, I’m finally able to make decent money, I can actually make some changes.”

There’s a Nigerian wave, African wave, in the UFC at the moment, with fighters like Yusuff, Israel Adesanya, and new welterweight champ Kamaru Usman. Yusuff is still blown away by that latter’s success. “I thought he was going to win, I couldn’t believe how he won. I don’t think anybody saw that.”

“I have a lot of respect for Woodley,” Yusuff added. “I didn’t see [Kamaru Usman] being able to do that to Tyron Woodley.” As he said back in Philly, “that’s the most emotional I’ve been from watching someone else fight.” Even Sodiq’s mom, not one to watch much outside her son, was pulling for Usman to win.

But perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the success of Nigerian fighters could boost the country as a whole. As Yusuff himself put it, “a rising tide raises all ships. It’s going to help all of us. It’s going to help the whole country. It seems like something small, mixed martial arts helping a whole country. But hope is hope. Seeing somebody that looks like you, someone that comes from where you’re from, if you see them achieve something, it’s going to spark a little inspiration inside you too.”

And that’s what it’s all about. Inspiration.

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