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Kamaru Usman Is Uniquely Driven By Desire

MMA Coach Trevor Wittman Speaks On The Unique Qualities Of Kamaru Usman Ahead Of His Welterweight Title Defense At UFC 258

Trevor Wittman knew Kamaru Usman for a long time before they started working together last summer, so the renowned head coach was well aware of the physical and mental attributes that made Usman the UFC welterweight champion.

But as Wittman and Usman have further developed their bond as coach and athlete, it’s the 33-year-old star’s character that impresses Wittman most.

How To Watch UFC 258: Usman Vs Burns

“Kamaru is one of the most likeable guys I’ve ever been around. He’s honest, and he treats people the right way,” Wittman told UFC.com. “From a fighter’s perspective, you’re going to love what he does in the Octagon and in the training room, but what stands out is his behind-the-scenes character. I’m honored to be around his greatness and to be his coach.”

Usman vs Burns Main Event Preview | UFC 258
Usman vs Burns Main Event Preview | UFC 258
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The character that Wittman is referring to can be seen in Usman’s diligence in picking the brain of teammates Rose Namajunas and Justin Gaethje, as well as his insatiable appetite to work. Wittman has seen that hunger on the cameras in his gym when he returns to his office after their training sessions, only to find “The Nigerian Nightmare” doing extra rounds.

It’s evident that Usman is highly motivated heading into his next title defense, which is set to take place at UFC 258 against former Sanford MMA teammate Gilbert Burns.

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And while people may be driving the former teammate narrative, Wittman doesn’t believe that connection is fueling Usman’s fire. It’s simply Usman’s desire to be the best, not his previous relationship with Sanford or with Burns.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14:  Kamaru Usman of Nigeria raises his hand in victory over Colby Covington in their UFC welterweight championship bout during the UFC 245 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: Kamaru Usman of Nigeria raises his hand in victory over Colby Covington in their UFC welterweight championship bout during the UFC 245 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bott

“The former teammate thing isn’t giving Kamaru any extra motivation, not even a little bit,” Wittman said of Usman’s UFC 258 mindset. “We cut all that out. I’ve put a lot of time into Kamaru not viewing Burns as a former teammate and a former friend. Burns’ job is to take everything that Kamaru has worked for, and while I believe they can be friends after the fight, Kamaru has to put an end to Burns’ championship aspirations.”

It seems like each of Usman’s title defenses have come with a unique set of narratives. His first defense came against in a heated rivalry with Colby Covington, his second came on UFC’s first trip to UFC Fight Island against the surging Jorge Masvidal, and now he’s facing his former teammate in Burns.

It’s clear that Usman isn’t affected by the pressure that comes with these big-time fights. He thrives in the moment.

Kamaru Usman: Journey to Champion | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
Kamaru Usman: Journey to Champion | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
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Take a look back at Kamaru Usman's path to the UFC welterweight title.


“I’ve worked with so many guys that have the physical attributes and lack the mental attributes or the guys that have the mental attributes but don’t have the right physical attributes,” Wittman said. “Kamaru balances everything so well. He’s a physical specimen, and when it comes to his mindset, no one can take credit for that but him.”

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You can hear the excitement in Wittman’s voice as he talks about Usman and the work they’ve put in together so far. Linking up wasn’t something that Wittman necessarily expected, but he’s thrilled that it happened, and he is excited that their relationship is blossoming into something special.

“I treat my fighters like they are my children. I feel like at the beginning of my career I was more like friends with my athletes and now I’m more of a father to them,” Wittman said. “I don’t want to see them hurt and I also don’t let them get away with things. I call the shots and they listen; they have to trust the advice I’m giving them. With Kamaru, the more we work together, the more we build that trust. It’s a relationship that I truly cherish."

Kamaru Usman: Warrior Code
Kamaru Usman: Warrior Code
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With so much history between Usman and Burns, Wittman believes that switching camps will prove to be a significant advantage for Usman.

Not only did he get to add different looks and insights by Wittman and his crew to his game, but Usman also got to spend nearly a whole year updating the last version of Kamaru Usman that Burns was familiar with.

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“I think there is a huge advantage there. Burns is with the same team, so Kamaru knows him. But Burns doesn’t know Kamaru over the last year. This is a different Kamaru,” Wittman said. “I’m not taking credit for making Kamaru champion; I’m going to take credit in the updated Kamaru and for him filling those holes. Kamaru is peaking at the right time and I’m putting the standard on ourselves that we need to come out and show that Kamaru is a different animal altogether.”

There have been 12 welterweight champions in UFC history and Wittman is confident that when all is said and done, Usman will stand alongside Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre as the greatest welterweights of all-time. Defeating Burns is the next step to building toward that legacy.

 Kamaru Usman of Nigeria walks back to his corner after a round of his welterweight championship bout against Tyron Woodley during the UFC 235 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Kamaru Usman of Nigeria walks back to his corner after a round of his welterweight championship bout against Tyron Woodley during the UFC 235 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“A lot of athletes lose sight and think they are bigger than what they become but I don’t see that with Kamaru,” Wittman said. “He’s simply a different breed. He wants it so badly. There’s a law of compensation and when you work like he does then he gets what he deserves. That’s why I think he will go down as one of the greats in this sport.

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“I think Kamaru looks at the welterweight division and wants to stay the champion of one of the sport’s toughest divisions. He’s excited about the upcoming guys and future fights, but he knows to be champion you have to win one fight at a time and clean out a division in time. And with that, he’s focused on the next task at hand and that’s Gilbert Burns.”

Make sure you watch UFC 258: Usman vs Burns on PPV, Saturday February 13th. The PPV starts at 10pm ET/7pm PT on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass.