Nigerian welterweight Kamaru Usman became the UFC’s first Africa-born champion by dominating Tyron Woodley over five rounds in Las Vegas.
Usman (15-1) overwhelmed Woodley (19-4-1) in his fifth attempt to defend the belt with a wrestling-heavy approach en-route to a unanimous decision win on the scorecards (50-44, 50-44, 50-45) at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, who emigrated to the US at age eight, said afterwards in the cage alongside his daughter: “Can’t nobody handle me. I’ve been wanting this fight, and I’ll be honest, I might not be the best striker in the world. I might not be the best wrestler in the world. But when it comes to mixing this up, I’m the best in the world right now.”
Usman added: “You know I come from humble beginnings, all the way from Nigeria. I never dreamed I would have a platform like this and would be on this stage one day. And when this little girl came along, she lit a fire under me. She lit a fire under my ass and I got going, and here I am, and here I am. Daddy did it. When you grow up I want you to remember this day forever okay baby, daddy did it!”
With a ninth straight victory preserving his perfect record in the octagon, Usman ended Woodley’s near three-year reign at 77kg in MMA’s premier promotion.
UFC president Dana White has indicated the 31-year-old will make his first title defence against Colby Covington (14-1).
Meanwhile, Israel Adesanya (16-0) has a chance to emulate his compatriot Usman when he battles Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) for interim middleweight honours on April 13.
Adesanya, who was born in Lagos and relocated to New Zealand as a teenager, is scheduled to fight Gastelum at UFC 236.
The winner will face middleweight king Robert Whittaker (20-4), who is recovering from an abdominal hernia that forced him out of a clash with Gastelum last month.
Cameroonian heavyweight Francis Ngannou (13-3) is also closing in on a second title shot after running through Curtis Blaydes (10-2) and ex-champ Cain Velasquez (14-3) in his previous outings.
The France-based destroyer fought Stipe Miocic (18-3) for the strap in January 2018, but lost via unanimous decision.