When asked to name a famous athlete of Nigerian descent, Hakeem Olajuwon is usually the name that first comes to mind. That may soon be changing thanks to the UFC. At the moment though many high-level Nigerian mixed martial artists are bursting onto the scene.
One fighter who made sure everyone in the MMA world was taking notice of him in 2018, was none other than Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya. The Nigerian born mixed martial artist made his UFC debut on February 11th, 2018 at UFC 221. He took on Rob Wilkinson that night, winning the fight via TKO and getting a Performance of the Night bonus as a result.
My walkouts are for me…noone else.— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) January 12, 2019
Which one was your fave?
What song should I walk out to next? Suggestions welcome but I'm probably just gonna do me anyways. 🤫 ssshhh… pic.twitter.com/CgHSHCOfzV
Adesanya would continue his winning as he won his next three fights, taking home a Performance of the Night bonus in two of those three.
Adesanya has a very unique fighting style which is heavily influenced by his kickboxing background. He currently sits at 6th in the UFC Middleweight division with a flawless 15-0-0 professional MMA record. Adesanya was awarded Breakthrough Fighter of 2018 by UFC for his work. A win against Anderson Silva in their upcoming bout at UFC 234 on February 9th, 2019 will likely springboard him further in the division and further his legacy.
Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman, a Nigerian born fighter in the UFC’s welterweight division absolutely conquered 2018. Fighting out of Dallas, Usman went undefeated in 2018 with a perfect 3-0 record. He defeated Emil Weber Meek, Demian Maia, and Rafael Dos Anjos on his way to an impressive 14-1-0 overall professional MMA record. His most recent fight against Dos Anjos gained him a Performance of the Night bonus.
His style is wrestling heavy, as he wrestled collegiately at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. In his junior year he even won the 2010 NCAA Division II national title in the 174 lbs. division.
Usman’s 2018 was impressive, so much so that he was given a shot at Tyron Woodley, the UFC Welterweight champion. The upcoming fight will take place at UFC 235 on March 2nd, 2019. Look for Usman to bring everything he’s got to win that highly coveted title.
One up and coming Nigerian fighter in the UFC’s Featherweight division that should be on fight fans’ radars is Sodiq “Super” Yusuff. Making his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 142 back in December, Yusuff defeated Suman Mokhtarian via TKO in the first round. That outing earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.
Yusuff has compiled a professional MMA record of 8-1-0. and at 25 years of age will only get better at this rate. Although he hasn’t cracked the top 10 rankings in the UFC’s Featherweight division, a few more exciting performances like his last fight, and he will be there in no time.
As with fighters of their caliber, they will all be looking to take the next step and become champions in their respective divisions. Usman could become the UFC Welterweight champion as soon as March if he can outlast Woodley. Adesanya would need to defeat Silva in his February fight, and that would definitely put him in title talks for the Middleweight Championship. As far as Yusuff, he is still fairly young in his UFC career, but if he can string three or four solid victories back to back, he would definitely put himself in Featherweight Championship contention. And who knows, maybe in 2020 there will be three UFC world champions representing Nigeria.