A U.F.C. Champion’s Title Is Not Sufficient. He Desires to Battle a Boxer Subsequent.


Kamaru Usman scrunched his face in a playful method and tilted his head. He had simply defended his Final Preventing Championship welterweight title in a five-round brawl with Colby Covington at Madison Sq. Backyard at U.F.C. 268.

The belt for the 170-pound class rested subsequent to him on a desk, the leather-encased gold plate shining as brightly as Usman’s metallic go well with lapels and his diamond necklace. Earlier within the week, Usman solicited to combat Saúl Álvarez, one of the best pound-for-pound boxer who — additionally on Saturday evening — delivered a masterful 11th-round knockout of Caleb Plant in Las Vegas. Usman’s boss, U.F.C. President Dana White, downplayed the feasibility of a crossover megafight to reporters minutes earlier than Usman’s information convention. Usman disagreed.

“Dana doesn’t know that,” Usman mentioned. “I would like one thing that scares me.”

The prospect of matching Usman with one of the best boxer on the planet could not frighten Usman, however White and U.F.C. officers are proper to be hesitant in regards to the hypothetical bonanza. On this period of blurred traces inside fight sports activities, organizers have forfeited aggressive logic to appease a brand new crop of paying followers. With Usman and Álvarez, the reward could not generate the success of comparable latest experiments.

Álvarez instructions an viewers, and he produced an unquestioned outcome, knocking out Plant exactly to unify the 168-pound belts. Many of the viewers on the MGM Grand Backyard Area supported Álvarez, a Mexican who goes by the nickname Canelo, and Showtime constructed the occasion solely round him. Folks from throughout the nation purchased the pay-per-view broadcast, too, together with White. An image circulated on Twitter of him watching it on a monitor octagon-side as Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili fought for the 115-pound title within the U.F.C.’s co-main occasion. White later mentioned he had guess $100,000 on Álvarez to win by knockout.

“I watched the Canelo combat tonight,” White mentioned when requested if Usman ought to field Álvarez. “He don’t need to combat Canelo. Come on, man, let’s cease this.”

This isn’t the primary time White has handled crossover fights. He allowed the brash Irish U.F.C. fighter Conor McGregor to field Floyd Mayweather in 2017, a spectacle that profited McGregor a minimum of $30 million. That sum is uncommon for combined martial arts competitions, and whereas Usman almost certainly would obtain far much less for a bout with Álvarez, the quantity would nonetheless be a pay increase from what he will get going through opponents in combined martial arts.

Two brothers with widespread YouTube channels, Jake Paul and Logan Paul, have led a shift in fight sports activities previously 12 months. Logan Paul fought Mayweather this summer season in an exhibition whereas Jake Paul has crushed comparatively protected opponents: a retired basketball participant and two M.M.A. fighters previous their primes. The specifics appeared outrageous to pure boxing followers, however the brothers’ giant social media following allowed the fights to be successful.

Usman doesn’t have stardom just like the Pauls or McGregor, and he has mentioned he doesn’t need to pursue it. However extra eyes on his fights would result in extra {dollars}. When requested if he would field Álvarez for charity, he laughed.

“In fact we would like the cash,” Usman mentioned.

The problem of going through Álvarez additionally intrigues Usman as a result of he has crushed a lot of the high contenders in his division.

“Don’t get me mistaken, he’s a grasp at what he does,” Usman mentioned. “I like it and I respect it, which is why I need to problem myself.”

Usman is very revered in combined martial arts circles. After he beat Covington, White and others spoke about how he may find yourself evaluating to the best welterweights of all time, like Georges St-Pierre.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that he doesn’t have the identical fan following as Álvarez. Usman’s assist at Madison Sq. Backyard was combined, and the gang at occasions chanted for Covington, a fervent supporter of the previous president, Donald J. Trump, who has made conservative politics a central a part of his persona.

The cheers for Covington grew within the later phases of the bout, as he got here again from two knockdowns in Spherical 2 and challenged Usman down the stretch.

Had Usman not gotten the knockdowns, the judges simply might have scored the choice otherwise, leaving room for debate and a straightforward avenue for a 3rd combat between Usman and Covington.

And past Usman-Covington, different fighters additionally commanded consideration on the U.F.C. 268 card. The lightweights Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler supplied one of the best conflict of the evening, a high-paced showdown that Gaethje gained, although each males left bloody and wanted hospital examinations. Namajunas additionally defended her strawweight championship towards Zhang in a break up determination.

If Usman have been to field Álvarez, the variations between combined martial arts and boxing, together with the sports activities themselves and the pay hole between the U.F.C. and the highest tier of boxing, would complicate selling the occasion.

Álvarez has mentioned he’s not desirous about combating Usman, and fan want has not reached the purpose but to say in any other case. If it occurs, although, Usman mentioned he could be able to compete in Álvarez’s most popular self-discipline. Usman would combat him in combined martial arts, too, he mentioned, although he doubts Álvarez would try that.

“We’re those which might be prepared to go over there and take that danger,” Usman mentioned. “They wouldn’t dare come over right here and take that danger.”

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