Kamaru Usman has had no shortage of high profile fights throughout his illustrious career as a champion UFC welterweight.
This weekend, though, feels a bit different. At UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, Usman steps up a division to middleweight to fight Khamzat Chimaev as a late replacement for the staph-ridden Paulo Costa in a fight which could have significant consequences for the remainder of his career. A win, Dana White said, will guarantee him a title shot at 185-pounds — but a loss, which would be his third in succession, might well state that his time as a top-level fighter is winding down.
And speaking to TMZ this week, Usman said he was well aware of the scale of the task that awaits him in the UFC 294 co-main event this Saturday night in Abu Dhabi.
“He’s very skilled,” Usman said of his foe. “He’s strong, he’s big, he’s fast, he can wrestle, he can grapple, he can strike. He has everything — but so do I. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. Everybody feels invincible until someone comes in and pokes that balloon.”
Should he become the first man to defeat Chimaev in mixed martial arts competition, Usman will likely be next up for Sean Strickland — a fight he already holds a win at 170 against from several years ago.
“It’s a built-in,” Usman said of the potential rivalry with the newly-crowned middleweight king. “Sean Strickland’s the champion. I’ve already taken care of him. Not to say he’s not better — he is. But I’ve got a mountain in front of me that I need to scale and climb, so we’ll get through that first and then we’ll worry about what’s next.”