Former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has responded to recent comments by middleweight Dricus Du Plessis, who claimed he and his teammate Cameron Saaimon were the only true African UFC fighters.
Ahead of his most recent appearance at UFC 285, Du Plessis, who was born in South Africa, took a shot at former champions Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) and Israel Adesanya, who were both born in Nigeria.
Before they were teens, their families moved to different parts of the globe; Usman to the United States and Adesanya to New Zealand. It’s where they would be raised, and eventually, become elite MMA fighters. However, Du Plessis believes that since he was born, raised, and still lives in Africa, he would be the first true African UFC champion if he captures the title.
“Did those belts ever go to Africa?” Du Plessis questioned reporters at UFC 285 media day. “As far as I know, they came to America and New Zealand. I’m going to take a belt to Africa. I’m the African fighter in the UFC. Myself and Cameron, we breathe African air. We wake up in Africa every day. We train in Africa, we’re African born, we’re African raised, we still reside in Africa, we train out of Africa – that’s an African champion, and that’s who I’ll be.”
Usman, 35, returns to action in the main event of UFC 286 in London, where he will challenge welterweight champion Leon Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) in a title rematch. Speaking to reporters at Wednesday’s media day, Usman responded to Du Plessis’ statements, admitting they were initially off-putting.
“I saw it, and I guess the thing about me is I try not to be quick to jump on someone and really kill them for those things,” Usman told reporters. “I’m not part of this cancel culture. But, I understand what he’s trying to say, but I think the one thing he’s failing to realize is – just because I go to China, and my parents are in China and I’m raised in China, that doesn’t make me more Chinese than people from China. That doesn’t make me more Chinese, and so just because you went over to South Africa and you were raised there, that doesn’t make you African. So, I would say to him: Try to be a little bit more careful with what you say and how you say it.
“That’s the thing nowadays is the younger guys and the newer guys and they get up here and they just talk, because they want to appeal to the fans, appeal to the people. But try to be more mindful, because 20 years from now, that’s not going to age well.”
Usman said he has spent some time on the mats with Du Plessis in the past, which initially gave him pause when a teammate showed him video of the press conference. However, “The Nigerian Nightmare” didn’t let the comments get under his skin because he understood Du Plessis’ perspective and chalked it up to a newcomer trying to make noise on the microphone.
“After that first, immediate like, ‘Hey, are you serious?’ Because it sounded personal,” Usman said. “He took direct shots. He mentioned myself and Israel Adesanya, I believe. It was like, ‘Bro, I actually kind of know you.’ I think it was just heat of the moment, he got up there, he’s excited. He just got a big win and he was just running off, but at the end of the day, the more wiser side of me is like, ‘OK, I understand what he was trying to say.’ But bro, that doesn’t make you more African.”
‘That doesn’t make you more African’: Kamaru Usman responds to Dricus Du Plessis’ recent claims