Sodiq Yusuff explains how he ended up on a Disney show

Unlike a lot of fighters, UFC featherweight Sodiq Yusuff answers his DMs – provided they stay respectful.

“As long as it’s cool – you’re not, like, a troll – I’ll hold a conversation if I have the time,” Yusuff said on The MMA Hour.

That openness paid off in a big way recently when Yusuff struck up an online conversation with an animator that said they were working on a project about a futuristic Nigerian.

One of several octagon combatants with Nigerian blood, and a self-described “nerd,” Yusuff’s ears perked up. The more the animator described the project, the more he realized it was a real opportunity. Then he learned of the animator’s client – Disney – and went into high gear.

“I tell people all the time, especially athletes growing up, people don’t realize how many no’s you get,” said Yusuff, who did the interview from his kitchen while preparing a post-fight meal. “You only need one good yes for it to mean something.”

Yusuff pursued his yes with a DM of his own to the owner of the animation company, who, as it turned out, was a UFC fan.

“He was a Nigerian UFC fan, so I checked off all the boxes,” Yusuff said. “I was like, I’ve always been a big nerd, and I would love to be a part of your project, no matter how small the role is.”

That led to a voiceover session where Yusuff got three lines. Producers liked him so much they called him back for more work – six episodes in total.

The other part of staying open to DMs for Yusuff is sending them – it’s his way of hustling to new opportunities.

“Now I’m in a Disney show,” he said with a laugh. “My DMs are full of me shooting my shot at a million different things. And yes, I get no’s all the time. But it doesn’t matter how many no’s you get – you just need a yes every once in a while.”

The animation project, Iwájú, is set in Lagos, Nigeria, and follows best friends Tola and Kole ”as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds.” It debuted on Disney+ on Feb. 28.

“In Yoruba [Yusuff’s native language], Iwájú means ‘in the future,’” Yusuff said. “It’s about a futuristic Nigeria, and I play a character [Sunday Adelekan].”

Fighters are not exactly known as natural thespians on camera, but Yusuff took the whole experience in stride, just like he did when he play-fought Paul Felder on the HBO series “Hacks.”

“I fight people in my underwear for a living,” he said. “Even when I was in acting classes, people would be getting nervous. I feel like I’ve broken my nervous-meter.”

Yusuff recently got another yes, one related to his primary career, when he got a fight with Diego Lopes at the banner UFC 300 event on April 13 in Las Vegas. He hopes to rebound from a disappointing loss to Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 81 this past October.

Of course, Yusuff is training hard to bounce back. But in the meantime, he’ll be monitoring his social media. You never know what might pop up.

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