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MMA Feature: Usman Proud To Pave The Way For African Fighters ~Omonaijablog

Viewers on DStv and GOtv can enjoy even greater fighting action, with ESPN providing more boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) for those who like to let their fists do the talking. 

One of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) biggest stars is Kamaru Usman, who last year became the first African-born (he hails from Auchi in Nigeria) mixed martial artist to win a world title in the promotion.

Usman (17-1), known as 'The Nigerian Nightmare', claimed the UFC’s welterweight belt with a unanimous decision over American Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) in March 2019, and he has since defended it twice, with a TKO victory over American Colby Covington (16-2) last December and a unanimous points decision over compatriot Jorge Masvidal (35-14) in July this year.

Usman is blazing the trail for African-born MMA fighters, with fellow Nigerian-born star Israel Adesanya following swiftly in his footsteps by claiming the middleweight title in 2019 and mounting two successful defences of the belt thus far in 2020, while Cameroonian-born Francis Ngannou looking more than capable of dominating the heavyweight division.

“There’s just so much talent coming out of Africa,” Usman explained. “I know there are kids now who see me and I look like them. They know I’ve seen their paths, I’ve walked that journey. It’s powerful. There’s just something about us, and where we’re from, that connects us."

Usman added, “When I see these guys there is a sense of camaraderie that you can’t explain. You know deep down inside they have felt what you have felt and been through what you have been through.”

Usman, apart from his UFC achievements in recent times, has also this year been reunited with his father, Muhammed Nasiru Usman, who had in 2010 been convicted on a series of healthcare fraud charges and had served close to 10 years of a 15-year sentence.

“I dealt with it but it was tough,” said Usman. “As an African boy there’s a need to excel for your parents. I was like that. It happened when I was becoming nationally recognised. I was looking for that approval (from him) and I didn’t have my dad to rely on anymore. It bothered me for years but we were always close and it stayed that way. Having him here now, the dynamic of our relationship is tremendous.”

Usman’s father - a former soldier - had left his young family behind in Nigeria in 1989 to forge a new life for them in the United States. Usman was two years old at the time and it took his father six years of hard work before he could afford to reunite his family in America.

“To leave your kids and come to American to earn your visa, to give them a better life, it takes guts,” said Usman. “It takes a hustler, someone who is motivated. To go through what he has been through and still be positive and have his spirits up is inspiration to me every day.”

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