Morning Report: Kamaru Usman admits ‘it stings’ that he never became double champion

Kamaru Usman had one of the more dominant runs for a champion in recent years.

Outside of his wars with Colby Covington, Usman was largely unmatched in non-competitive affairs throughout his five successful title defenses as the UFC welterweight king. Even when he eventually dropped the title to his past foe Leon Edwards, Usman was cruising to yet another dominant win.

Obviously, one flawlessly delivered kick was all it took to change that as Edwards connected cleanly with one minute left in their rematch to become “and new.” Usman, 36, has lost twice more since that Edwards encounter at UFC 278 in August 2022. After that, Usman was taken to a short-notice debut at middleweight vs. Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294 this past October, where he lost a competitive three-round majority decision. In hindsight, it makes one wonder if Usman could have won gold at 185 pounds, and had that division’s champion been different, we would have found out.

“No, it doesn’t sting,” Usman said on his new Pound 4 Pound podcast about never becoming a two-division champion. “It stings that I didn’t become double champion but it doesn’t sting that I didn’t go up and fight Israel. I just genuinely, and I stand by it, I just genuinely had no desire to be the potential reason why Israel [Adesanya] — another Nigerian — was not a UFC champion. I just didn’t want to. I had no interest in that.

“Not to say I was gonna beat him up or whatever but I just had no interest in being the reason why there potentially was not another Nigerian UFC champion. Had it been Sean Strickland, 1000 percent I was moving up (laughs).”

Since Usman reigned over the welterweight division, Adesanya dropped his title to Alex Pereira that same year but ultimately reclaimed it a few months later at UFC 287 in April 2023. It wasn’t until this past September when Strickland shocked the world and upset “The Last Stylebender” with a clinical unanimous decision title win in Australia.

Of Strickland’s six career losses (28-6), Usman was his second when the two met at UFC 210 in April 2017. Once a welterweight prospect, Strickland lost the bout via a unanimous decision before finding his footing up in weight three years later.

Usman meant no disrespect to his now-fellow former champion Strickland. It was just more of a friendly-personal type of situation amid his welterweight title reign that stopped the history pursuit.

“I think Sean Strickland has definitely improved, he’s tough,” Usman said. “He’s very good. He’s come into his own and he’s very relaxed in who he is as a fighter now. He knows who he is.

“People don’t realize how difficult Sean Strickland is to fight. Imagine you’re in a fist fight and this f****** dude is standing right in front of you. Straight up and down. Him and Jorge Masvidal, two of the most difficult people to fight because they’re standing straight up and down right there. Who stands like that in the mixed martial arts fight when there is the potential you can be taken down? He just stands there like this and he does this weird thing where he just puts his hands up and you can’t hit his face (laughs).”

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Oh boy.

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (35-7) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (19-3, 1 NC); Bellator 302, March 22

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Stylistically, Adesanya vs. Usman would have been pretty fascinating. At their best, it’s a tough pick but I might have to lean toward Adesanya thanks to the size and length advantages. Ever so slightly, though.

Happy Friday, everyone. Have a great weekend. Thanks for reading!


Would Kamaru Usman have beaten Israel Adesanya had he attempted to become a two-division champion?

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