There’s something to be said for moving up a weight class to prove yourself, and perhaps claim a second title. Many of the greats — from Randy Couture to Georges St-Pierre, to (love him or hate him) Conor McGregor have done it. Kamaru Usman? He planned to do something we haven’t seen all that often in MMA: moving up two weight classes.
Yes, certain fighters have done it (Jake Collier has moved from middleweight to heavyweight in the UFC, over a span of years). But Usman, the UFC’s current welterweight champion, considered skipping middleweight entirely and challenging Jan Blachowicz when the Polish fighter still held gold.
Usman discussed the possibility with GQ, who released a feature on the Nigerian-born champion earlier today. From the GQ Piece:
“I was going to skip Israel and go fight Jan at 205 [pounds],” says Kamaru, suddenly animated. Even discussing the prospect of tangling with a giant grizzled Polish guy who outweighs him by 40 pounds has Kamaru basically salivating. “Because I’m pound-for-pound, I want to prove it. No matter what weight it is, I thought he was a really good matchup for me.”
For the time being, though, it’s a battle that remains theoretical. In October, Blachowicz lost his world title in an upset to Glover Teixeira, putting any would-be Kamaru challenge on hold. Still, Kamaru remains intrigued—and unfazed. Never mind the fact that Blachowicz is bigger, stronger, more powerful. “I think I would beat him,” he tells me matter-of-factly.
Whether Usman won or lost, that sort of move would certainly be something unique in the sport — almost a throwback to the era where weight classes were absent. A more lawless time.
There’s no mention as to why Usman in particular fixated on Blachowicz, as he doesn’t appear to have the same interest in current champ Teixeira. After toppling Blachowicz, Teixeira has been lined up for a fight with Jiri Prochazka.
Interestingly enough, Usman’s compatriot, Israel Adesanya, did move to light heavyweight to challenge Blachowicz — coming up short. It’s avoidance of a bout with Adesanya, who Usman insists he will not fight, that had him set his sights on 205lbs instead.
By most metrics, Usman trails only Georges St-Pierre in the race as best welterweight of all time. After a four-year sabbatical from the sport, GSP returned to action in 2017, defeating Michael Bisping for middleweight gold. He later vacated the title, and retired for good.