Few fighters ever get the chance to fly as high for nearly so long as Kamaru Usman did. The former NCAA D-II national champion wrestler held the UFC welterweight title for 1,267 days, through five successful title defenses, before being unseated this last August by Leon Edwards.
It wasn’t just the loss that was so shocking, however, but the way it all went down. Through a nearly 10-year pro MMA career, Usman had only been defeated once—in 2013, by submission. He’d never been knocked out or even failed to win in a fight that he had so firmly in control heading into the later rounds.
Although the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ has largely brushed off any supposition that the loss might have been especially hard on him, given the circumstances it would hardly be surprising if he had done a little soul searching in the weeks after losing his belt. In a recent interview with Combat Culture, friend and teammate Justin Gaethje talked a bit about what advice he’s been able to offer Usman on how to bounce back from his first KO loss. Mostly, it seems, Gaethje feels that it’s all about perspective.
“I mean, he’s no. 1 pound-for-pound, there’s no giving him my advice,” Gaethje admitted when asked about Usman’s loss. “I’m there as a friend, as a teammate. And my job is to remind him that when we were kids we got caught on our backs, now we get caught on our chin. It’s the same game. When we got caught on our back at 6-years-old it was just as devastating as getting caught on our chin now, because we knew nothing then. That was our life, that was everything then.
“We’ve been devastated multiple times in our lives. You don’t get to this spot with 100% success through your whole life. He’s been pushed, he’s been broken before, he’s broken himself. So yeah, there’s nothing to tell him, other than just to remind him that we’ve been here. This is what we do, this is who we are, this is what we’ve done since day one.”
Gaethje also talked about renovating his gym, renovating his nose, and his time left in mixed martial arts.
“I have two or three hard, hard fights left,” Gaethje revealed, adding that his bouts with Chandler and Ferguson only partially counted toward that total. “Whenever I would rather live than compete anymore. But, we’re nowhere near there.”
No word yet on when the ‘Highlight’ might return to action. He himself admitted that he probably wouldn’t be up for any kind of immediate title shot from the upcoming bout between Charles Oliveira & Islam Makhachev, but hopes to fight the winner from one of the UFC’s other high profile lightweight bookings.
As for Usman, there’s no date targeted at the moment, but expectations are that he’ll get an immediate rematch against Edwards at a yet to be named UFC event, sometime in early 2023—possibly on UK soil.