African-born UFC champions the stars of a new era of fighters from continent

When he received the UFC welterweight title in March 2019, Nigerian-born Usman grew to become the UFC’s first ever African-born champion.

Months later, Nigerian-born New Zealander Adesanya received the middleweight title to comply with swimsuit, whereas Cameroonian fighter Ngannou claimed his personal world title belt in March 2021, beating Stipe Miocic to turn out to be the UFC’s heavyweight champion.

Previously, the route of turning into a combined martial arts fighter hasn’t been a possible possibility for youths in Africa — Usman remembers looking for others who’ve made it to the high degree when he “didn’t believe in” himself to make the journey — however with the three champions, the subsequent era have position fashions to aspire to.

As properly as being fearsome in the Octagon, Usman is hoping that his journey — together with that of Adesanya and Ngannou — will be the instance others would possibly have to comply with of their footsteps, a feeling the 34-year-old is aware of all too properly.

“[Fighting in the UFC] wasn’t an example of something that was attainable and now we are that example for the masses,” Kamaru instructed CNN’s Zain Asher. “Because I go back to my childhood growing up and starting to get into sports and simultaneously ending up in wrestling, of all places, in high school.

“You go and analysis them and discover out what they have been doing and the way they have been in a position to break via and get to that time. That’s one thing that is so highly effective since you’re letting the human thoughts know that that is attainable.

“I never saw an example of a UFC champion and now to be that example for the masses all across Africa, not just Africa, all across the world, it’s something that I definitely do not take for granted.”

The journey

Born in Nigeria, Usman moved to the US when he was eight years previous.

Before that, his father had already traveled to the nation to earn a dwelling that would assist financially assist Usman and the relaxation of his household. Usman remembers not seeing his father’s face in individual till he was 4 years previous.

He was sorted by his mom, who was additionally a schoolteacher and a store proprietor, and a younger Usman additionally needed to work on a farm to assist his household.

Although he acknowledges others have confronted harder issues than his, he says it’s the struggles he needed to battle via in his formative years that made him the man he’s as we speak.

“Most people will never understand what it is to fetch water from a well, to throw it down and have to physically pull up water from a well,” he defined.

“Most people will never understand that and having to boil that water in order to get rid of certain parasites. Most people will never understand me and my grandma walking miles to fetch water, carry it on her head all the way back home. Most people will never understand that. And that was just certain things that I had to deal with.

“Of course, I really do not imagine that it is the hardest of hardships. But for my time, rising up via that, these are sure occasions that touched me and made me the man that I’m as we speak.”

He had to work his way through the ranks, but with his relentless victory over Tyron Woodley in March 2019, he became a world champion and realized a dream.

New boundaries

UFC president Dana White has not been shy about transporting fight nights across the globe, both in the hopes of growing the sport’s popularity and increasing revenue.

And with three leading lights in the UFC all hailing from Africa, having a show in his home continent is the next logical step for Usman.

Combat sports have already made the journey to Africa with great success after boxing’s blockbuster ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire — now the Democratic Republic of the Congo — on October 30, 1974.

Usman says he’s talked to White about a UFC event in Africa “a number of occasions” and he stresses that he believes it’s something that “has to occur earlier than my profession is finished.”

“We want that with all the totally different occasions and all the various things which might be taking place day-to-day and all the totally different conditions that sure international locations and sure areas are going via in that continent of Africa. I believe one thing like that is one thing that may undoubtedly shake up that continent for the higher.”

Usman’s not returned to the country of his birth since he left all those years ago, but it doesn’t mean the love for his country has dwindled.

Usman enters the arena prior to facing Jorge Masvidal on April 25.

Before each of his fights, he walks to the ring draped in a Nigeria flag. And it seems to have brought him the requisite luck — he is on an 18-fight unbeaten run and has successfully defended his welterweight title four times.

And in the coming months, Usman hopes to finally return to Nigeria — an “emotional” thought for the UFC star.

“Being born in a place like Nigeria that helped mildew me into the man that I’m as we speak, which is why I’m so vocal and I’m so passionate exhibiting that flag,” he explained.

“But over time, of course, you are away for lengthy sufficient and also you begin to miss it. I miss my folks; I miss being in a sure place to the place you are feeling at house. You really feel that everybody loves, respects and really cherishes you. I miss that.

“And that’s something that I’ve been longing for and I just can’t wait to be in the means of that, to just have my people touch me, to drink up their energy and give off the energy that I have. It’s something that means the world to me.”

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