Later today, UFC On FOX 20 will kick off in Chicago, Illinois. The unassuming card will present only 10 fights, as the original main event of Glover Teixeira vs. Anthony Johnson and the preliminary bout featuring George Sullivan vs. Hector Urbina have been scrapped.
What the UFC lost in quantity is more than made up for in quality, especially in the match-up between highly decorated NCAA wrestling standout, Kamaru Usman and the wily Russian veteran, Alexander Yakovlev. Usman has been successful in both his UFC bouts and was one of the winners of TUF 21 and Yakovlev has had a long, respectable career that seems to be on quite the upswing recently.
The Three Amigos Podcast sat down with Usman earlier this week to discuss a variety of topics in a lengthy interview. Part I of that interview can be read here, and the following transcript is the conclusion.
TAP: What are your thoughts on USADA's impact on the way drug testing is conducted in the UFC, and do you think these career-altering 2 year bans are fair punishments for first-time offenders?
Usman: I think it's great to have USADA come in and clean up the sport, because what I don't want to do is train my butt off for 10 weeks to prepare for a fight for a limited amount of money to feed my family, then get out there with a guy that maybe put in 3 weeks training and cheated. I don't want to be in there with a guy that has the edge on performing above his natural ability.
As far as the 2-year ban, it's a sport where we're literally fighting for our lives, our well-being, our family's well-being, so if you have to cheat me out of being able to provide for my family's well-being, then you should know that the consequences are steep, and this is what you're going to get. We all know the rules, and we're all meant to follow them.
If your supplements are accidentally tainted, and it's proven to be so, then that 2-year sentence starts looking extremely harsh and excessive. I'd like to think they take these on a case-by case basis.
TAP: The UFC sale was big news over the last week. What do you think that sale means to you as an athlete?
Usman: I don't know. It's tough to wrap my head around it. I'm guessing that means we have new bosses now, so I'm thinking that there might be some changes, and hopefully they're for the better. As of right now, I think everyone is kind of a sitting duck, just waiting and watching what's going on.
TAP: Do you think fighters will experience much change, whether it be in how the management handles contracts, communication, pay scale, etc?
Usman: I believe the UFC was sold based on their performance and the services they've provided, so if a company comes in and buys it, they just bought the blueprints of their success. I believe that WME-IMG bought the UFC because of its structure and success. I don't know if there will be much change in any direction, we'll just have to wait and see.
TAP: We're seeing several new weight cutting guidelines in the UFC that range from IV bans to the 8% rule. Do you think the UFC/USADA might be interfering too much with the basic responsibilities of their athletes, and should back off and let the fighters handle their weight-cutting, or do you like that firm guidance?
Usman: I believe, on their part, it's necessary because they put together a package that they sold off to a company. If I was a company wanting to invest in buying this package, then that's something I want to make sure I look into, because fighter safety is a big part of it. On their side, I believe they're doing the right thing.
However, on the fighter's side, it can be a bit too much. This guy, whose job is literally all he has to feed his 3 kids and wife, decides to cut a bunch of weight to get into a specific weight class...that's his responsibility. He's an adult and he has the right to be able to do that if that's what he chooses to do. He knows the consequences and he knows what could happen. In that sense, yes, I believe the UFC might be a little too far in the fighter's process.
TAP: You were majoring in Sociology at Florida Atlantic University. It's an interesting career field that might be useful in your fighting career. Have you found ways to make use of what you've learned in any capacity with the UFC, whether it be in your fights or day to day communications with your team, management, negotiation processes, etc?
Usman: Yes, definitely. I love to study people, and that's basically what sociology is. I'm a people watcher and I love to listen. My father taught me you're not learning if you're not listening, and you're not listening if you're talking, so I like to take it in, compute then formulate a response.
That goes hand in hand with what we do. We're in there fighting at the highest level, and we might be separated by one thread, mental capability and what we're able to endure. When both guys have their poker face on, sometimes it comes right down to how well you can read his poker face to know if what you're doing is even effective.
It's helped me a great deal in how I compete and how I live my day to day life.
TAP: What's the best thing about being on the Blackzilians team?
Usman: The best part is just the level of guys you have to train with every day. You can come in as a middleweight and a bantamweight will beat you up on any given day in training. When you come in and train with that team, if you don't raise your level, you're going to be left behind.
Imagine getting kicked in the head by Anthony Johnson in practice as a welterweight, then you go into a fight with another welterweight. It seems like nothing [laughs].
TAP: Do you guys still do "Meat Day?" (Blackzilians relegate a day for super hard sparring where headgear is optional. It's as close to a real fight as you can get in a training environment.)
Usman: We do, but it's not on Friday nights anymore. The level and intensity is so high on our team, that guys weren't even able to make it to Friday, so we changed the day.
When you come in on Meat Day, you already know that you're going to be in a serious fight later on today, so I've got to compose and prepare myself. This goes on all through the day. You wake up feeling anxious like that, and when you get in there, as Rashad likes to say, "When you come in on Meat Day, you better be prepared to get your meat chopped."
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 Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Geroge Lockhart, Iain Kidd, and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Podcast.