After defending his welterweight title for a fourth time in emphatic fashion at UFC 261, Kamaru Usman returned to Nigeria for the first time in more than 20 years.
It was a special trip for the man known as “The Nigerian Nightmare.” Usman was born in Auchi, Nigeria, and when he was eight years old, his family moved to Dallas, Texas, where Usman grew up. Perhaps more than anything, the trip opened Usman’s eyes to the stature he carries as a UFC champion in his home country.
“You don’t realize how much of an impact and how big you are outside of that bubble,” Usman said when UFC.com visited him in Denver. “That’s kind of what it was. I couldn’t – it’s crazy. Like here, we know what it is to be an A-list – I’m a celebrity here. But, it’s crazy to think that you can’t live that normal life when you’re somewhere else, and it would be impossible for me to – like here, I still sneak off and go to the grocery store. It would be impossible for me to do that.”
The June trip was highlighted by his appearance at the Lagos Food Bank, where he was surrounded by an adoring crowd chanting his name. He also visited with government officials and hopes to start building foundations to help the community there.
“It’s surreal to me,” he said. “(It’s) magical, and just to be able to see the influence and the impact that I have on the whole country - not just the country, but also the whole continent of Africa, it’s amazing, and it’s humbling, very humbling for me.”
Usman and fellow champion Israel Adesanya both received raucous receptions when they brought their UFC belts back home, and for Usman, he gained a better perspective on how he can impact that community.
The 34-year-old referenced the famous quote from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and said going home “1000 percent” helped him understand the position he holds.
“Going home, you got to see it first-hand,” Usman said. “I have a responsibility to motivate this and that person. I have a responsibility to continue to do what I can and do what I do so those people can look at me and say, ‘I can one day,’ or at least, ‘I’m going to try.’
“It was special, extremely special, for me to go home and see that.”
Usman, who has already defended his title twice this year with a pair of knockouts, hope to add another ruby to his UFC belt at UFC 268 in New York City. There, he is scheduled to face Colby Covington, a rematch of their epic title fight at UFC 245 in which Usman won via fifth-round TKO.