“First and foremost, I just want to say I’m glad to actually have the fans back, to feel this energy from everybody,” Kamaru Usman said during Thursday’s UFC 261 press conference.
That brought up a cheer from the assembled crowd, a rarity when it came to Usman (18-1) on Thursday. For the most part, the fans in attendance jeered and heckled the welterweight champ. After all, Usman’s opponent is Miami’s own Jorge Masvidal. The crowd was not shy is showing their love for the charismatic challenger, and disdain for the unbeaten (in the UFC) Usman.
Despite the pair’s history, with Usman defeating “Gamebred” by unanimous decision last summer, the champ would have you believe that there is no bad blood between the two.
“It’s not personal at all. If he’s making it personal, that’s on him. It’s all about business. He’s the next guy I picked,” said Usman, when asked about any rivalry.
Comparisons have been made between Usman and the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. While he’s a long way off in terms of title defenses, win for win, he’s approaching that status. However, the champ stated, for now he just wants to finish his career. “I just want to take it one fight at a time. And then by the time I’m said and done, then everybody can talk about who’s been the best.”
In the meantime, added Usman, “this guy next to me on the other side, he’s a good fighter. He is a good fighter. And I take him very, very seriously.”
As he should. Masvidal has made a career out of winning in unexpected ways (just ask Ben Askren and Darren Till). In clawing his way back to the top after many had counted him out. Thursday, he promised that all the energy he had spent cutting weight on short notice in the pair’s first fight would be spent finishing Usman.
Usman retorted by pointing out the flaws on Masvidal’s record. “You got 14 losses in your career, 7 in the UFC, you’re 3-3 in your last six,” exclaimed Usman. “You are sitting there today because I chose you. I’m coming around the track, and you’re the first guy I’m about to lap.”
Not personal, just business. Got it. As for comments Usman had made previously about being dissatisfied about not finding the finish in their first meeting, “it’s not about getting the finish. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel like I satisfied my athletic career,” replied Usman. “I come in each and every fight, and I come in because I train very, very hard. I didn’t feel like I broke his will. And on Saturday night, once I break his will, absolutely, I’ll be satisfied.”
UFC 261 takes place this Saturday, April 24 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The main card airs live on PPV.