Give Kamaru Usman the respect he deserves, and maybe a rematch with Jorge Masvidal, as well

Usman had a lot going for him until Saturday night at UFC 258 in Las Vegas. He scored his 13th victory. The UFC welterweights fought their way back into the lineup, defeating the welterweight record of Georges St-Pierre (170 pounds). Usman also drew with the great Khabib Nurmagomedov for the second biggest win of his UFC career, and now has three more victories to match Anderson Silva’s record of 16 consecutive wins.

Oh, and it was his 18th. Overall victory. And you know what? It was the most impressive of the 18 victories.

No, really.

Usman has just arrested a burning Gilbert Burns. He took Burns’ best shot in the first round, fought back and finished Burns third by TKO. He beat Burns by strokes, which was +240 on William Hill’s Caesars Sports album.

Usman’s fight has always been there, and now the attackers are gathering as well. Coach Trevor Wittman did it again.

Yet after the fight, Usman kept repeating that he respects his name. He said it several times, both in the cage and in the post-fight interview.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is now 13-0 in the UFC. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa Ltd.

To the uninitiated, it may seem strange for a man to ask for respect with his resume, but Usman is right. When we talk about the faces of the UFC – or even the best of the UFC – his name never seems to come to mind. That’s mostly Nurmagomedov, Jon Jones, Stipe Miocic, Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes…. and then we might discuss Usman. But he was never called one of the best.

This is a mistake, and it needs to change.

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Usman is one of the best fighters in the UFC right now. He’s the best fighter for a pound. He may not attract the attention of others because his style was not very favorable to the fans during this period of domination. But with a few more wins like this, that will change.

The only thing he’s not – at least not yet – is the biggest welterweight. Yes, I know he just broke a St. Peter’s record, but Usman will have to break another record – or at least come close to breaking one – to get into this conversation: the successful defense of the title. For Usman, this is his third successful defence; SPG have had nine. There’s a big difference.

This is not meant to denigrate Usman, and should not be interpreted that way. He’s in the Matt Hughes/Pat Miletich shooting range right now. It’s a reputable company. But it’s not welterweight…. At least, not yet.

But Usman has a few things in common with the classic GSP: He’s running out of new opponents… and fast. Usman defeated Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards (although before that, Usman and Edwards were the fighters they are today) and now Burns, to name a few.

I was curious if Usman would call anyone out after his win or if he would just let the division play itself out. And you know what, he called up his old enemy Masvidal.

Jorge Masvidal (right) wasn’t able to perform much of his explosive attack against Usman at UFC 251. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa Ltd.

What a gift for the FMB champion. I felt like I could hear Masvidal cheering thousands of miles away in South Florida.

Look, Masvidal doesn’t really want to fight Covington. Masvidal hates him so much he’d rather ignore him, they say. Of course Masvidal would, but it’s not his first choice. However, he would love to fight Usman again for the title, this time with a full camp behind him, unlike the fight he accepted in July with a week’s notice.

The UFC has been trying to convict Masvidal against Covington for weeks. According to some sources, Matchmaker has even put them in talks to become the new coaches of The Ultimate Fighter. The deal won’t work. That’s why Dana White said he would consider booking Covington Friday against Edwards. There was no real question that this battle would be fought; White’s comment was more of a bargaining chip, at least for now, than a reality.

You can now bet that Masvidal will use this call to push the fight for the title. In fact, moments after Usman’s comments, Masvidal’s co-manager Malky Kawa floated the idea of Usman and Masvidal acting as UFC coaches and then, of course, fighting.

Let’s go. UFC. Masvidal v. Usman. We accept.

– malki kawa (@malkikawa) February 14, 2021

Ousman-Maswidal 2? Edwards-Covington? Not a bad plan B. Is the PDU going to bite?

I also see the UFC trying to exploit the challenge by promising a title shot to the winner of Covington-Masvidal. Two for the price of one. I mean, Usman won’t turn around and fight in a few months anyway.

Or the UFC could just fight Masvidal again. We all wanted to see him for months last year before failed negotiations led Usman to book a promotion against Burns. Burns was then tested for COVID-19, and you know how the rest went. Also, the UFC really needs some famous UFC coaches.

But for now, Usman should be fine. He made history. He’s currently in talks with legends.

And he doesn’t have to worry about whether anyone will respect his name anymore.

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