Kamaru Usman defends his UFC belt against MAGA-supporting challenger: ‘I’m more American than him’

Kamaru Usman put UFC welterweight championship challenger Colby Covington down after five rounds at UFC 245, and says it was about being a hard-working American rather than a punch of political rhetoric

Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman hits Colby Covington in a mixed martial arts welterweight championship bout at UFC 245, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

While UFC welterweight title challenger Colby Covington was nursing his broken jaw after his matchup against champion Kamaru Usman, a patriotic moment took place — and it wasn’t the MAGA triumph that Covington had hoped for.

“I’ve said it time and time again: I’m more American than him. I am what it means to be an American. I’m an immigrant that come here and work my ass off tirelessly to get to the top, and I’m still prevailing,” Usman said in a post-fight press conference after retaining his title against Covington at the end of five brutal rounds.

“And so that’s what it means to be an American. It’s not necessarily just because you’re born here, you feel privileged is what it means to be an American. No. I told you none of these guys work harder than me. That’s what it means to be an American. I work my ass off, and I’m going to continue to work my ass off and obviously with good integrity.”

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The walk up to the UFC 245 fight was nearly a Rocky throwback with Usman (16-1 MMA, 11-0 UFC) who has said he is apolitical, facing Covington (15-2 MMA, 10-2 UFC) who publicly sports a MAGA hat, openly supports President Trump, has befriended his son Donald Jr., and has even visited the White House carrying the title belt while he was interim welterweight champion in 2018. 

Usman, 32, immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when he was eight years old and eventually became a champion high school wrestler, and later a NCAA Division II All-American while attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He debuted as a professional MMA fighter in 2012 and became the UFC welterweight champion in March 2019 when he defeated Tyron Woodley.

The two men reportedly also share a public disdain for each other so when the matchup came at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas it became about more than mixed martial arts. 

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In the bout, both fighters depended on outlasting each other, through barrages of punches and low and high kicks. But in the third round, when Covington threw a jab, Usman returned with a shot directly to his grill, breaking his jaw. Going into the final, each of the previous rounds were closely contested. The three Judges scored them 3-1 Usman, 3-1 Covington, and 2-2 before the fifth and final round arrived.

In that final round, Usman knocked Covington down several times before referee Marc Goddard stepped in to halt a ground-and-pound. Covington argued the stoppage, but to no avail. Once the match was called with a TKO in Usman’s favor, Covington ran from the octagon with his handlers in tow.

“I was sitting there like, ‘Where’s his gas tank at?’ this whole time,” Usman said. “I was fresh. I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I think it was the beginning of the fourth or maybe the fifth. I’m hopping around like, ‘I feel fresh.’ I’m hopping around, looking across like, ‘Where is his gas tank? Where is his gas tank? I haven’t seen this yet. I don’t see it, so I’m going to turn up one more level.’ ”

After everything was over, Covington had to have his mouth wired shut, an irony that was not lost on Usman. 

“It’s unfortunate he has to go and wire that jaw shut. He said a lot of things, and you have to back it up. He was humble…I’d like to think he’s humble. I wish him all the best.”

Madison J. Gray is a contributing editor for theGrio.com. Follow him on Twitter @mjgraymedia.