Former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman knows where he stands after his short-notice loss at middleweight to surging contender Khamzat Chimaev.
Usman stepped in on less than two weeks’ notice for his 185-pound debut at UFC 294 on Saturday, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He thinks the narrow decision defeat indicates that he’s still one of the best in the world at age 36.
“I (was) coming off the couch in 10 days and fighting a young, hungry bull like that who’s big and strong and has had a year and a half to really grow into this weight class. And I didn’t,” Usman told ESPN’s Megan Olivi. “I think I didn’t trust my shape. I’m a championship fighter.”
Usman, one of the greatest welterweights in UFC history, said he experienced some self-doubt after losing the belt to Leon Edwards in August 2022 and falling short in an immediate rematch in March. Usman has now lost three in a row for the first time ever. But he believes he can return to the win column with his confidence back.
“You go years without losing for a long, long time. All the hard work. And then you drop two close ones like that,” Usman said. “You start to kind of question things and start to doubt yourself a little bit. You almost forget what it feels like.
“If anything that I can say I took away from tonight, it’s that I need to trust myself more, trust my coaches. And we’ll be back.”
Usman came on strong late in the fight after Chimaev dominated him in the opening frame. And Usman, who was competing in his first three-round bout since 2018, has a feeling that he would’ve beaten Chimaev had it been a five-rounder.
“You can’t start slow like that,” Usman said. “I say give me a couple extra rounds, and I think the world knows what that result might be.”