In August 2022, Usman solidified his place in the UFC with a stunning knockout victory against Zac Pauga to win The Ultimate Fighter Season 30. Usman says his life hasn’t changed much since winning that fight, and that he’s only needed to work harder to ensure he keeps his spot on the UFC roster.
“A lot of people say it’s easy to get here and harder to stay, so I’ve really been putting the work in and trying to get to the next level,” Usman said.
The idea of simply staying in the UFC isn’t enough for Usman, though, as he eyes championship-level status in his near future. Motivated by money and the ability to look after his family financially, Usman doesn’t see a limit to how far he can take his mixed martial arts career.
“What motivates me is money,” Usman said. “Being able to feed my family, have money to not stress, to be able to wake up and know your bills are paid, my kids are fed, that’s my motivation.”
“My long-term goal is to be a champion in the UFC in whatever weight division I decide and be one of the best in the world. At first, I just wanted to be a great fighter, but now more and more as I’m getting to this high level and really indulging in the sport of MMA, I want to be one of the best.”
At first, it was difficult for Usman to find a rhythm back in the gym after suffering a thumb injury in the TUF finale. Despite taking eight months to recover, Usman still didn’t feel 100 percent. The injury didn’t stop him, however, from accepting a bout with Australian knockout artist Junior Tafa.
Knowing how dangerous of a striker Tafa is, Usman’s gameplan was pretty straightforward; press him up against the cage or take him to the mat. By the end of round three, Usman had accumulated over 12 minutes of total control time - clinch and ground combined - on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
“A lot of people don’t know I broke my thumb in that TUF finale, that’s why I had that long layoff, and then coming into [the Tafa fight], my body still didn’t feel where it needed to feel,” Usman said. “What was strongest was my will. Sometimes when your body’s not strong, but your will is, you can get a lot of things done and that’s what I showed in that fight. Now, with a strong body, I’m excited.
“People don’t understand how dangerous a striker he was coming from a kickboxing background. I feel like I can [out wrestle] anybody. At the end of the day, I feel like I’m physically built to be able to handle anybody, whatever anybody throws at me. Same goes for my next opponent. He’s going to throw the kitchen sink at me, and I’m going to be ready for anything.”
Usman’s next opponent: Jake Collier, a 12-fight UFC veteran coming off three consecutive losses inside the Octagon. While Collier’s recent run of form doesn’t look well on paper, Usman knows that anyone who’s competed in the UFC for nearly a decade isn’t someone you can look past.
“I think he’s a hard-nosed, tough fighter,” Usman said of Collier. “At the end of the day, your record doesn’t always show how tough you are. I respect every fighter that competes in the [Octagon]. He’s going to come out there, throw big shots and do what he thinks he needs to do to win.
“I know I can win. That’s one thing that I’ve told myself. It doesn’t matter where the fight goes, how tough the fight is, I know I’m gonna win. Winning is what I’m going to do but I want to show my progress - my progress training with my coach and all these new things I have under my arsenal. I want to be able to use these things and show my Fight IQ and show the next level of evolution for me.”
UFC Fight Night: Fiziev vs Gamrot took live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!