Kamaru Usman has left his former team under Henri Hooft in Florida ahead of a teammate versus teammate clash between himself and Gilbert Burns.
The two welterweights are set to meet in Abu Dhabi at UFC 251 for Usman’s 170-pound title, raising questions about how best to navigate a potentially awkward situation. Now, Usman has made the decision move to Denver to work with Trevor Wittman.
“Florida was the base for a long time, but you grow from there,” Usman said, speaking to ESPN. “We always had a ton of guys, some of the best training partners out there and some great coaches.
“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career — someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill.’ It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you, who also need to get attention.”
At the end of the day, Usman says it was a change that was almost inevitable. When you rule as champion, teammates in the same division will almost always start to wonder if they could beat you for the world title.
“I think eventually I would have changed things up anyway,” Usman said. “We had a lot of welterweights at that gym. At some point, when you’re training with these guys on a daily basis and you’re the champion of the world, these guys know you in and out and if they get the better of you one day, they’re licking their chops thinking it’s their time. A little separation from that is good. It keeps that element of surprise, because these guys feel like they know you.
“One thing I firmly believe is that it’s my work. You can be with a great coach, but if you’re not putting the effort in, that coach isn’t going to help you win. That coach isn’t going to get in and fight for you. I know I put the work in.”