When Kamaru Usman dominated Tyron Woodley at UFC 235, he made history by becoming the first African-born champion in the UFC. Usman was born in Auchi, Nigeria and his heritage is an intrinsic part of who he is, adopting the fight moniker “The Nigerian Nightmare” as a nod to his roots. So with his first title defense likely to be against Colby Covington, one of the most polarizing figures in the sport with a penchant for disparaging other cultures and a vocal supporter of president Donald Trump, Usman sees this as a fight that’s about more than just 12 pounds of gold.
“Part of what this next fight symbolizes to me is the attitude that a lot of people have towards immigrants,” Usman said on a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show (transcript via BJPenn.com). “A lot of people forget that Americans are immigrants. People are forgetting that, to where people have this attitude, ‘We’re Americans, go back to your country. Go back. This is a free country.’ I always heard that growing up. I always heard that. The more I research it’s like, ‘What? What are you talking about’ This whole attitude.
“When you go to hotels, who are the maids who work at most of those hotels? A lot of them are immigrants. We take pride in that because we’re in a better place and want to provide for our families. Those are jobs a lot of people, the so-called ‘Americans,’ the whole Colby Covington persona are like, ‘I’m above that.’”
That attitude, Usman says, is intrinsic to Covington as well. Usman argues that Covington feels entitled certain things by the nature of who he is, but when the cage door closes, the only thing he will be entitled to is a beating.
“He’s entitled to, ‘I should be UFC champ, you’re a soy boy, you can’t handle me boy.’ That’s his attitude, ‘You can’t do this boy,’” Usman said. “First of all, who’s your boy? I’m a grown ass man. Don’t f*cking talk to me like that. That’s the attitude he has.
“He’s entitled to this: ‘I should be the champion, I’m American.’ Bro, we’re all American here. This fight is greater than just a guy who is talking sh*t. This fight means a lot to me. So when I get the chance to put my hands on this guy, just know that it’s the wrath of every immigrant in this country that I’m going to put on him.”
Usman already tried to lay that wrath down once before. The morning after winning his welterweight title, Usman ran into Covington at the buffet in The Palms and a brawl nearly broke out, with Usman and his manager going after Covington in the middle of the crowded line. That altercation laid the groundwork for their future title fight.
Afterwards, Covington said he didn’t press charges for the attack because he “didn’t want Usman deported back to Nigeria” doubling down on the kind of rhetoric that has helped elevate him to his spot in the rankings and has bothered “The Nigerian Nightmare” so much. That’s okay though because Usman says that will only make his win more satisfying.
“I haven’t been in a fight yet where it was malicious, where I was maliciously trying to hurt someone,” Usman said. “I haven’t been in that fight. My mind is strong. I don’t compete, ‘Oh, I want to kill this guy.’ Then you swing five punches and miss and you’re dead tired. I don’t compete like that.
“This one, I’m still going to compete like myself, but there’s a little extra, ‘Oomph’ behind those elbows now. I’m going to filet your face. This win is going to be one I really enjoy.”