Current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman very nearly retired back in 2018.
Speaking to the “TSN MMA Show,” Usman divulged that, when he was ranked No. 7 in the world prior to his booking against Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Chile in May 2018, the UFC had a tough time finding opponents who would be willing to fight him.
“The organization said, ‘That guy turned it down, that guy turned it down, that guy turned it down,'” Usman said. “I was like, ‘You know what? There’s no point.'”
However, after Ponzinibbio pulled from the fight, Usman instead fought Demian Maia, who he beat before doing the same to Rafael dos Anjos, and then Tyron Woodley to win the welterweight crown. But even long before that, before Usman had even entered the top 15, “The Nigerian Nightmare” had a difficult time finding opponents as well.
“I couldn’t get a fight. I couldn’t get guys to fight me. Guys really didn’t want to take the gamble by fighting me,” Usman said. “You had all these top guys – guys in the top 10, top 15 – and then you’ve got a big shark that will eat up all of you guys that’s circling the waters around you guys. And nobody wanted to let me into the party.”
Of course, once he actually entered the rankings, the struggles didn’t stop there.
“Once I got in (the rankings), it was kind of a hassle to get these guys to fight me because they knew what would happen: I would dominate them and eventually, I would be the UFC welterweight champion of the world, which is what I am right now,” Usman said.
Now, Usman prepares to make his first-ever title defense against hated rival Colby Covington. The pair headline UFC 245 on pay-per-view (PPV) from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 14.
What do you think about Usman nearly retiring back in 2018?