He’s big in Nigeria, he’s big in Florida, he’s even big in Nebraska, but according to NCAA wrestler Jacob Greenwood, Kamaru Usman has a pocket of diehard fans in the booming metropolis of Laramie, Wyoming.
Entering his junior season at the University of Wyoming, Greenwood has gone nearly his whole collegiate career seeing one of the UFC’s most dominant welterweights in only main events or title fights.
Whether it was the TUF 28 finale main event that lined him up for a title shot, his mauling of Tyron Woodley in the co-main event of UFC 235 or the first headliner on UFC Fight Island, there has always been high level anticipation and excitement for “The Nigerian Nightmare” in the most unlikely of places.
Yet Greenwood not only admires the high level wrestling of Usman, but wrestling actually bonded the unlikely pair long before UFC main events.
“I know him really well,” Greenwood said. “My mom and dad started a wrestling club, a nonprofit back in 2008 in honor of my brother. Marty was at the Olympic Training Center back in Colorado Springs and my mom and dad were looking to sponsor a wrestler.”
After floating the idea to the coaches, Mr. and Mrs. Greenwood would be introduced to “Marty” Usman, and they hitched their wagon to a rising star. Usman would go on to wrestle for the club in the senior circuit for about four years before entering the world of MMA and quickly becoming a household name, although, not by the name Greenwood knew him as.
“I think everyone that knows him from wrestling knows him as Marty,” Greenwood laughed. “Once he made it big, he switched to Kamaru, which is his birth name, so that’s kind of nice.”
While Usman was wrestling for Greenwood’s family’s team, the focus was Olympic wrestling. There would be offhand mentions of a future in MMA and Usman’s wrestling speaks for itself but becoming one of the most dominant champions in the game just a handful of years later wasn’t a discussion many were having at the time. All of a sudden it just happened.
“I think as his wrestling started to grow, he might have mentioned it a couple times but that was it,” Greenwood explained. “Then we didn’t hear from him for a little bit and then we saw him on TV and that was pretty neat to see him. We were like, ‘That’s our coach!’”
To this day, Usman is never too busy to send texts back and forth with his former sponsors and former students. He asks nothing in return and still has undying fandom and loyalty from the Greenwood family. Because he’s never too busy to reach out, the Greenwoods are never too busy to keep up with his career.
After college, Jacob isn’t ruling out following in Usman’s footsteps and venturing into the world of MMA but hasn’t committed to anything yet. With the role model and coach Usman always was, you’d have to imagine MMA would be lucky to get another fighter cut from the cloth of “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
“The best thing I remember about Marty is he was always happy and always relaxed,” Greenwood said. “Even if he lost, he wouldn’t get down on himself, at least in front of us. He always had a good attitude and I feel like I tried to follow that a little bit. He just keeps his head up all the time, no matter the outcome. Just a very positive guy.”
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