Kamaru Usman recently delved into the commentary/analysis side of mixed martial arts, following in the footsteps of many other fighters. His first commentary position came this past April when he worked Titan FC 38 in Miami alongside MMAjunkie.com’s John Morgan.
It didn’t come out of the blue for Usman. The 28-year-old already competes inside the cage, but has always wanted a job involving fighting outside the cage. For him, that was commentary. And he believes being able to commentate successfully is a rare trait, but one he has.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Usman told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I believe that I’m not just a fighter in this game; I love to study the sport. And in studying the sport, I believe I have a good eye for the sport and I’m able to talk about the sport. Not a lot of guys are able to do that. We can fight, but when it comes to talking about the sport for viewers and people to listen to, not a lot guys are able to articulate that very well. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and it just so happened my management was able to get that started while Titan was moving down here in Florida. And we got that going.”
Is there anything that makes a professional fighter nervous? fans often ask. Understandably so, considering professional fighters square off against other human beings with high-level combat skills in a locked cage with bad, bad intentions. But, in fact, there is. Fighters do actually get nervous.
For Usman, being the voice of a broadcast available to UFC Fight Pass subscribers around the world — being listened to by thousands and thousands of people — was a very daunting experience.
“[I am] definitely nervous [during my commentary work],” he admitted. “That’s the thing about a fighter — you have to have that good poker face and keep it on. It’s a different dynamic working those shows. As a fighter, yeah, we can fight, we do it, and it’s tough. But when you have to talk and be a description for people, a lot of people can’t do that. It’s so nerve-wracking how that works. But fortunately I was able to find that groove a little bit, and I’m improving daily.”
As there would be for any commentary newcomer, there have been several things Usman has had to work on to improve his skill-set on the microphone. This includes speaking louder and with more enthusiasm.
“I believe that just naturally I’m a very soft-spoken person,” he said. “Everyone tells me that on a daily basis — ‘Speak up, we can’t hear you,’ or ‘Elaborate on this.’ But that’s just how I am.
“A lot of people don’t realize when we watch fights, we just watch fights. What you don’t realize is that that fight is really facilitated; everything that you’re hearing is being carried by those commentators. If you’re watching the UFC, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, those are the guys that are really carrying the show. The excitement is built around them based on their excitement of what’s happening. Those are some of the key things that I really had to kind of work on and keep an eye on — my energy of what’s going on. If I’m not excited, viewers watching around the world, why would they be excited?”
Usman has only worked three Titan FC events thus far — Titan FC 38, Titan FC 39 and Titan FC 40. He’s still new to the game. He isn’t quite sure whether he will be the face of Titan FC commentary from now on or not. That said, he hopes to be.
“I would love that,” he said. “That’s a good question. I’m going to have to have our head producer answer that. But I would love that, for sure. I think that’s something that I would love and ultimately help me build a resume in commentating to get even bigger jobs in the future.”
To add onto that, as of right now, Usman hasn’t signed a long-term, multi-event deal with the Florida-based organization.
“Right now, it’s a card-by-card basis,” he said. “I mean, I’m slowly getting my feet wet and learning the ins and outs of commentating. I think that’s something we’ll have to wait on and see how I do here in the next show or the next couple of shows. But that’s something that’s a possibility of happening. I would love to sign a big long-term deal with them.”
Having a post-fighting career plan is very important for most combatants because fighting is particularly a young sport, and its pay is rather low, compared to other professional sports. Fortunately for Usman, he already has one.
He sees a future in commentary full-time after his career inside the cage is complete.
“One hundred percent. It’s something that I’ve had my eye on for awhile, and it’s something that I want to do,” he said. “Fighting is just something that’s gonna open doors for things to come in the future. I can’t fight forever. Commentating is one of those major things that I definitely feel I want to do and can do.”
Usman only currently works from the Titan FC commentary booth, but wants to be doing both commentary and analysis in the future.
“I would love to do both,” he said. “Joe Rogan right now pretty much has free range. He can sit down and do a one-on-one interview kind of in an analyst way, a reporter, a journalist type of way. And also, he’s a commentator. So I would love to have free range to just be able to sit on a desk as an analyst, commentate certain shows. That’s definitely in the cards of what’s going to happen. I want to eventually sit on that desk. But I know you gotta start somewhere. And this is where I want to work out everything I need to learn in order to get to that aspect. But yeah, I definitely want to eventually get on that FOX desk and sit there as an analyst.
“Dominick Cruz does a good job of that, Brian Stann — those guys do a phenomenal job of that. That’s kind of the footsteps I want to follow. I want to be better in every aspect. I want to be able to just blend in and do whatever I need to get done.”