Kamaru Usman Was ‘Super Nervous’ Ahead of First Fight with Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251

Masvidal's reputation as an absolute killer had the 'Nigerian Nightmare' in a bit of a panic ahead of UFC 251.

Kamaru Usman
Courtesy of @UFCNews on X

Kamaru Usman was “super nervous” ahead of his short-notice showdown with Jorge Masvidal

In 2019, ‘Gamebred’ was one of the biggest stars in the MMA game courtesy of a victory over Darren Till and his BMF title-winning performance against Nate Diaz. However, it was his insane five-second flying knee knockout of Ben Askren in between those two fights that really cemented his status and set the stage for a future shot at UFC gold. 

“I say one of the most violent [knockouts] because of, he was out for almost like two, three minutes,” Usman said of Masvidal’s KO win over Askren on his Pound 4 Pound podcast. “He was out. I remember I was there. I remember watching like, ‘Oh s***, he still stiff. Not is he out, but he’s still stiff. Then, all that happens, that was 2019 and then I think maybe a year later you and I fight…”

Less than a year later, ‘Gamebred’ was handed his first shot at the welterweight title. 

Originally, Usman was scheduled to defend the 170-pound crown against Gilbert Burns at UFC 251 until ‘Durinho’ was forced to withdraw due to COVID-19. On six days’ notice, Masvidal agreed to fly from Miami to ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi and take Burns’ spot.  

Having already defended the belt twice before, this was far from Usman’s first rodeo, but that didn’t stop him from feeling uneasy about the rather risky endeavor. 

“Of course, we get nervous for every fight, but one of the first times it got to me, everything around me got to me because, bro, they’re playing your viral knockout, one the most viral knockouts ever,” Usman said of the Askren knockout. “They’re playing that thing every freaking minute on every channel everywhere, on all the socials everywhere.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, this guy’s trying to come in on six days notice…’ Now I’m trying to make the mental switch. Like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be fighting a different style. He’s [got] fast hands. He’s a good counterpuncher.’ I’m trying to picture all this, but I’m seeing this every day. They’re asking me every interview, how are you gonna deal with this? I’m watching your interviews and you’re [saying] ‘I’m gonna baptize this guy.’

“[Masvidal] f*cking gets to me. I’m like, ‘Oh sh*t, is he gonna baptize me? What the f*ck is it? I’m in a hotel and I’m super nervous for this, especially that — that moment before you go to the arena for the fight, and I’m in my room just like, ‘Why the f*ck am I so nervous right now? Get it together…’ I would say that was probably one of the most nerve-wracking fights that I had.”

Kamaru Usman Made a Statement in Their UFC 261 Rematch

Usman ultimately came out on top, but to Masvidal’s credit, he took the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ a full five rounds, prompting the promotion to schedule a rematch nine months later at UFC 261.
This time, Usman would come out on top in a much more decisive fashion, blasting ‘Gamebred’ with a nasty right hand 62 seconds into the second round. 
Published on June 20, 2024 at 4:16 pm
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