Kamaru Usman will be changing training camps ahead of his welterweight title defense against Gilbert Burns at UFC 251, telling ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that it is time to move on.
The reigning UFC welterweight champion has been a member of Sanford MMA (formerly Blackzilians) for over eight years but will be relocating to Denver, Colorado to train with renowned MMA coach Trevor Wittman, who coaches the likes of Justin Gaethje and Rose Namajunas.
“Florida was the base for a long time, but you grow from there,” Usman said. “We always had a ton of guys, some of the best training partners out there and some great coaches.
“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career — someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill.’ It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you who also need to get attention.”
Burns, who was teammates with Usman at Sanford MMA, says it will be sad to see ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ leave.
“Our main coach, Henri Hooft, he stepped out,” Burns said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to go either way. I don’t want to pick a side. You guys train. I’ll be here at the gym. If you want to train here, we can train. But I’m not going to the fight.’
“For me, it doesn’t change too much. It’s just a little weird to fight Kamaru. I really like the guy a lot. We’ve trained together since 2012 or 2013, so we’ve put a lot of time together.”
Usman believes the move to Colorado was inevitable and is excited to change his training regimen ahead of UFC 252.
“I think eventually I would have changed things up anyway,” Usman said. “We had a lot of welterweights at that gym. At some point, when you’re training with these guys on a daily basis and you’re the champion of the world, these guys know you in and out and if they get the better of you one day, they’re licking their chops thinking it’s their time. A little separation from that is good. It keeps that element of surprise, because these guys feel like they know you.
“One thing I firmly believe is that it’s my work. You can be with a great coach, but if you’re not putting the effort in, that coach isn’t going to help you win. That coach isn’t going to get in and fight for you. I know I put the work in.”
UFC 252: Usman vs. Burns will take place next month, July 11 at the UFC’s “Fight Island” facility on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.