KAMARU USMAN’s motivations for a blockbuster crossover bout with Canelo Alvarez aren’t financial – he simply wants to become ‘The Face of the Fight Game’.
The UFC’s dominant welterweight champion revealed his eagerness to test himself against boxing’s pound-for-pound king ahead of his successful title defence against Colby Covington last November.
Usman’s calls for a Canelo clash have been brushed off by the majority of fight fans, with many viewing it as a desperate attempt to land the biggest payday of his career.
The Nigerian Nightmare is all too aware of the financial reward that would come with a showdown with the newly-crowned undisputed super-middleweight king.
But it’s the chance to do the unthinkable and permanently etch his name into the history books that is driving his pursuit of the crossover clash.
The Love Hemp Ambassador told SunSport: “Obviously, the bigger the dream, the bigger the manifestation.
“And the more it scares me, the more I’m willing to prepare and go through [hell] to achieve it.
“It’s no surprise. Canelo is a tall glass for anybody – a tall pint.
“And it scares me, it scares me to death. But the real reason [I want the fight] is: I wanted to be welterweight champion, I got it.
“I wanted to be pound-for-pound, I got it. I always thought this phrase was special, and the phrase that I’m after now is: ‘The Face of the Fight Game’.
“And Canelo, right now, can’t say [he’s the face of the fight game]. Yeah, he’s the face of boxing, but he can’t say he’s the face of the fight game.
“And I can’t claim to that as well. So, there’s only one way for me to stake claim to that.
“And that’s taking on something that seems astronomically impossible to everyone, except myself.”
Manifesting a multi-million-pound showdown with Canelo to fruition will be the tallest order of Usman’s combat sports career.
But the man from humble beginnings in Auchi, Nigeria, is no stranger to willing such momentous achievements into existence.
In fact, it’s all he’s ever done since leaving Team USA’s Olympic training center in Colorado to pursue his dream of winning UFC gold.
Usman, who claimed the welterweight throne years ago with a shutout of then-dominant champ Tyron Woodley, said: “Throughout my career and my life, I always set a goal for myself.
“And I might not write it down – a couple I’ve written down. I might not write it down, but I set the goal here (points to his head).
“And each and every day, it’s working towards that goal. It’s working towards that step. And I’ve manifested so much, so much in my life and in my career.
“To where when I was leaving the Olympic training center for wrestling, I created a Twitter account. I left and I was going to pursue mixed martial arts.
“And I put on there, I believe, it was future welterweight champion of the world. And it was rocky at times. I had ups and downs and bumps in the road.
“And then I got to the point where somehow I found a way to the Ultimate Fighter. And that was something that I’d thought about and I was manifesting in my head, ‘I would be an Ultimate Fighter champion.’
“Because look at my mentor at this point, it was Rashad Evans. He was that. He was the Ultimate Fighter champion and a UFC champion.
“So I find myself on the show now and I’m like, ‘Okay, maybe I can do this. Let me try that.’ And we get through and I do win the show.
“And now I find myself in the UFC to where that manifestation that I planned in my head, it could actually happen now because I’m the organisation.
“Not many people get to the organisation, let alone be in the position to potentially get there. And now I’m working and I’m working and I’m working. And in my head, it kind of struggled to be real to me.
“Because it scared me. ‘UFC champion, that’s impossible. I couldn’t do that. You’re just a small kid from Nigeria that found wrestling. How does that happen?’
“And I kept thinking and manifesting to [the point] where I remember getting the call, ‘Hey, you’re going to fight this guy in March for this belt.’ March 3rd 2019.
“And I was like, ‘What? I don’t believe it yet.’ Because I was calling out this guy, that guy and this guy because I just want to fight. I just want to get closer to it.
“And I get the contract and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, this is real. And at that point, there was nothing in my head, there was nothing in my way that was going to stop me from achieving something that I’ve already set out to do in my mind years ago – a decade ago.
“And I got out and it was almost like walking through a dream. Because every move I had done before, every step I had done before. The game plan, I had executed before. And boom, I became the champion.”
Usman’s goals for his combat sports career – as well as his Twitter handle – quickly changed after he fulfilled his dream of becoming Africa’s first UFC champion.
He recalled: “I remember changing that handle to ‘welterweight champion’ and how it felt. But even after doing that, I still had other goals.
“And for me, it’s like, ‘I see it, I want it. All right, that’s it, let’s go do it.’
“And I was like, ‘Man, it would be great to be [top of the] pound-for-pound rankings. That would be good, that would be great.’
“And at the time, it was Jon Jones that was there. And I was just like, ‘Man, it would be great to be that one day.’
“So I start thinking and thinking. And everything I do, every step that I’m taking is towards that. And then all of a sudden, it happens.”