The MMA world was stunned this past August when UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman lost his title thanks to a Hail Mary kick.
Leon Edwards was dominated by Edwards for nearly five full rounds. He was on his way to a landslide decision loss when he drilled Usman with a head kick and put him out cold to win the 170-pound title.
Usman said the pressure was on him in that fight because of his 15-fight UFC winning streak and aura of invincibility, which had people hoping he’d lose. On “The Pivot Podcast” with co-hosts and former NFL standouts Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, Usman said people were hoping he’d lose.
“When you’re successful, it’s almost like everyone is sitting back waiting for you to lose,” Usman said. “That’s what I think the knock on Floyd Mayweather was. He was so successful and perfect at his craft that people bought his fights just to watch him lose. … Once it happened to me, it was the kick heard ’round the world.
“The kick was the only weapon he used that worked. It was just a good kick. It was something that I knew that I didn’t do a good job, or I didn’t do as well as I should have to stop it. But it was just a beautiful kick. Hat’s off to him.”
Saturday, Usman gets a chance to avenge the loss and get the title back in a rematch, which actually is a trilogy fight. The two first fought in 2015, when Usman won a unanimous decision.
In the trilogy bout, which headlines UFC 286 at The O2 in front of Edwards’ home fans in London, Usman said as long as he knows that kick is out there, everything else should fall into place.
“There are minor adjustments I have to make,” Usman said. “But whenever you go into a fight, there’s a lot more going on than what the public can see. There’s a lot that I have to battle through just to make it to the fight. But that’s why I think I’ve been successful – because if I don’t put myself through the fire, then I don’t feel as confident knowing that I can deal with anything being thrown at me once it’s time for real.
“I’ve never been in this position, but I know that mentally, nothing has changed for me. This is the same guy that I beat up before. He’s still going to be the same guy. I have to remind him who he is right away. … When I fight guys, I fight their heart because I want to break their heart. I want to break their spirit and break their soul.”
Although he’s no longer the champ, Usman is still a solid favorite in the rematch. He closed at nearly a 4-1 favorite in the first bout at UFC 278, but is down around -250 for the trilogy fight at Tipico Sportsbook.
“It’s going to be a little bit more difficult this time,” Usman said. “In his head, he forgot about the four rounds before the kick. He forgot that I was taking his soul, so I have to remind him that I’m someone who took his soul twice.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.