Kamaru Usman knows who he wants next.
Two back-to-back losses to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion, Leon Edwards, have “The Nigerian Nightmare” in an unfamiliar spot in his illustrious 23-fight career. Still wanting to compete, Usman, 35, now hopes to collide with one of the hottest unbeaten contenders in the sport, the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev (12-0 ).
“A fight with myself and Khamzat? Boom,” Usman told ESPN. “I’m kind of in a place now where I’m having fun with it, and what’s the biggest, funnest, most intense fight that really makes me feel something? That’s a fight right there. That could headline a pay-per-view (PPV).
“He’s a fighter and I’m a fighter at the end of the day,” he continued. “I fight these guys heart, not their weight. I’ve been able to deal with Middleweights and Light Heavyweights in the gym. And if he wants a shot at the Welterweight strap, you kind of have to give a little bit and show I can get down there and do it. But if it’s up a weight, potentially.”
Chimaev — the No. 3-ranked Welterweight contender — finds himself in a bit of an odd spot as well. For his last time out at UFC 279 in Sept. 2022, Chimaev missed the 171-pound limit by 7.5 pounds and now appears destined to return to the 185-pound division.
While Usman admits he does want a fourth fight against Edwards, he knows he’ll have to do some work to get back to “Rocky.” Unfortunately, enticing options feel limited for the former champion.
“There aren’t a ton [of interesting] fights. I’m being honest with you,” Usman said. “[Chimaev] is No. 1, biggest one out there. [Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson] is the last guy from my era who I haven’t fought. We were kind of on a collision course and kept missing each other. That’s an intriguing fight. A crazy style to deal with.
“And a crazy one, Conor [McGregor] has always said he wanted a third title,” he continued. “When I was champion, you can’t just waltz up, skip everybody and fight for the belt. You have to show some legitimacy. What’s better legitimacy than fighting the No. 1 guy in the division?”