clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC on FOX 20's Kamaru Usman: I think USADA is 'doing a remarkable job'

Highly touted UFC welterweight prospect Kamaru Usman spoke to the Three Amigos Podcast about his time with the Blackzilians, how he feels the UFC has handled his career thus far, the USADA drug testing failures of Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones, and much more.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, July 23rd at UFC on FOX 20 in Chicago, top welterweight prospect Kamaru Usman will be taking on Alexander Yakovlev on the televised portion of the preliminary card. Usman is already 2-0 inside the Octagon and 7-1 in his young career, having made a name for himself as part of the winning Blackzilians team on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter.'s Zane Simon and T.P. Grant had previously touted Usman as the #1 welterweight prospect on their 2015 MMA Scouting Report.

As we draw nearer to Usman's showdown against Yakovlev, Bloody Elbow's Three Amigos Podcast recently caught up with "The Nigerian Nightmare," who discussed everything from his top 15 aspirations, the USADA era, his advice to fellow up-and-coming fighters, implementing his decorated NCAA wrestling skills in MMA, and much more.

TAP: You've been brought along steadily with the quality of opponents you've faced thus far in the UFC. With a win against Yakovlev, a very tough opponent who has a win over Paul Daley, how close do you see yourself breaking into top 15 territory?

Usman: Personally I believe [with] my abilities -- and I believe in myself -- that I'm already there. With this fight here, I believe this fight should put me right there in the top 15, and if not, I should get a top 15 or top 10 opponent next fight. You know, we can't do this forever. When I came into this sport, I had a goal for myself and I kind of put myself in a timeline of how long I wanted it to take me to get to the top of the mountain, and so we're kind of approaching that spot now and I feel like I'm right there. I'm getting comfortable and I'm ready for any type of opponent that they throw at me.

TAP: Do you like the pace that the UFC has set for your career growth, or would you prefer they step it up a little more?

Usman: Pace meaning regularity of fighting or more of the opponent? Because with regularity, of course we would love to fight a lot more often. I would love to fight a lot more often, but of course it's the UFC and whenever they feel that they have an opening then they can put us in there because there's so many fighters. With that, of course I'd like to fight a little more regularly.

As far as opponents, I feel like, yeah, they're not trying to do me any favors or this and that. Whoever they have open that they feel that is a top opponent that I could face at that point, they put out there, and of course I'm going to say yes and we go out there and take care of business.

TAP: You were an outstanding collegiate wrestler, having amassed multiple All-American awards and a Division II national title. Sometimes we see fighters come from decorated wrestling or BJJ backgrounds struggle to effectively implement their strengths in MMA. What was the level of difficulty for you to transition from a collegiate style wrestling to a more MMA-centric style?

Usman: That's a good point, because I try to talk to my mentors as much as I can about that. When you're doing something like wrestling -- wrestling is one of the toughest and hardest martial arts to learn -- but it's still a form of martial arts. It's still controlled. You're wrestling, so you're in a controlled environment to where you know ‘all this guy can do to me is grab my leg, take me down, put me in this and that,' so you know that. Of course you're going to be nervous when you go out there, but that's it.

MMA is completely different. You have no control of your opponent and what he's going to do when he's going to do it. That plays a big role, so when everyone comes in, we all feel like ‘Okay, you know what? We need to learn the striking and definitely get good there, because I don't want to get punched and kicked all day.' A lot of guys continue to work that and they just kind of neglect the wrestling, [which is] what brought [them] to that point. For me, personally, it's just mentally staying with my wrestling and just making sure that I'm able to fine-tune and sharpen that skill, as well as learning the new skill of striking and definitely trying to perfect that, as well. That's why I think that I have a big advantage, because I work on my striking a ton, but I don't forget about my wrestling, what brought me to the dance.

TAP: You've been on the radar of MMA scouts well before your time on TUF, and it's well-documented that you were touted as one of the brightest talents out of the Blackzilians stable. Not all young fighters and up-and-coming prospects can get themselves into elite camps like Blackzillians, Tristar, JacksonWink, etc, so bearing that in mind, what's the best route for these guys to go, especially when they come from backgrounds with very limited finances?

If you want to pursue this journey, you want to make sure that you go to a place where you're comfortable, as well as having great training.-Kamaru Usman

Usman: To be honest with you, when I decided to make this switch and I started looking for gyms, where I wanted to go to pursue this ... the biggest deciding factor for me -- I had a few different options and a few places that I could've gone -- is I wanted to go where I knew I would be comfortable around the guys there. I wanted to go where I knew that I could be comfortable enough to be relaxed so I could learn. My learning curve and learning process would be enhanced because I'm comfortable. When a lot of guys make the switch -- some guys go to a gym where they don't know anybody there and it's just a new gym, a new feel, you don't know the coaches. It takes awhile with just you getting to know them, their personalities, their tendencies, and how they coach, and [how the system works]. So with that in mind, it kind of slows down that process of learning. I went where I was going to be comfortable right away. What I knew, all I had to do was just train and improve. That's a big thing that I would say for guys. If you want to pursue this journey, you want to make sure that you go to a place where you're comfortable, as well as having great training.

TAP: How important would you say it is to constantly film sparring sessions, and ammy fights, especially since that might be the turning point to getting noticed?

Usman: It's extremely important. It's an underutilized tool in this sport, I would have to say. I myself am kind of a victim of this, sometimes. I've made that more and more of a point to do that now in my fights, because previously I would go in and just spar, and I know I got hit a bunch, but when I get home it's like, ‘Okay, what was I hit with again? How was I taken down? What submission was I put in?' By not having that film, it's hard to really go home and really revisit that and correct those mistakes. Now I definitely try to make it a point to film my sparring, and go home so that I see what's going on and I can see my mistakes -- ‘Oh I'm dropping this hand, or I'm not protecting my legs, and this and that.' It gives you that edge to be able to control and go ahead and correct that mistake before you go into sparring that next day. That's something that I think is extremely important.

TAP: Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones have been in the news lately for their failed USADA drug tests. In fact, we found out that Lesnar also failed his in-competition test at UFC 200. Reportedly, he tested positive for the exact same substance as Jon Jones. What do you feel about this whole fiasco for both men?

Usman: Wow, it's tough. I myself have been in the USADA testing pool -- I was there for the 2 years while I was training for the 2012 Olympics, and I've been back on it now since they've been with the UFC. It's wonderful. USADA is wonderful, I think they're doing a remarkable job, and they do do a remarkable job all around the world. With those guys failing drug tests, it's tough because some of the guys are claiming their supplements were contaminated, or things of that nature, which it could very easily be because with some of these supplement companies, you know they don't have to tell you all they put in there. They can just slap a label onto something and it could be contaminated with something and put it up on the shelf. If you don't know, you go out there and you buy it. So now, especially with those caliber athletes, I believe they're wealthy enough to be informed. When you go and buy supplements, you gotta be smart enough to know that, ‘Okay. I should go get this checked out, or is this okay, or I should look under the banned substance list to know that these are banned and these won't work.'

Those guys aren't fighting for a little bit of money, $10,000 or $20,000, those guys are fighting for millions, so it's their responsibility to make sure that they know what they're putting in their bodies. It's very sad to hear that, because those are some of the biggest stars in the sport and highly respected all across the board for what they've done and their contribution to the sport, so it's sad to see that.

Those guys aren't fighting for a little bit of money, $10,000 or $20,000, those guys are fighting for millions, so it's their responsibility to make sure that they know what they're putting in their bodies. -Kamaru Usman

TAP: Do you think we're going to see more fighters using the tainted supplement defense to leverage weaker penalty sentences like Tim Means and Yoel Romero did?

Usman: If that's really the case, then I can't really speak on it because I'm not in that situation. I hope that's not what they're doing. I hope they're not just saying it's tainted just to reduce their sentence of trying to cheat or trying to hide their penalties for trying to cheat. If their supplements are really tainted, which it could possibly well be, then I have no problem with that. I feel sorry for them that unknowingly, their substances were tainted. If that's the case, then that's the case. But if not, each man at the end of the day has to go home and look at himself in the mirror, and so that's that.

You can listen to the entire interview here at the 1:15:30 mark, or via the embedded player below. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nation name. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie HaynesThree Amigos PodcastGeroge LockhartIain Kidd, and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Podcast.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bloody Elbow Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your MMA and UFC news from Bloody Elbow