UFC Champion Kamaru Usman Wants a Shot at Canelo Álvarez Next


Kamaru Usman scrunched his face in a playful method and tilted his head. He had simply defended his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title in a five-round brawl with Colby Covington at Madison Square Garden at U.F.C. 268.

The belt for the 170-pound class rested subsequent to him on a desk, the leather-encased gold plate shining as brightly as Usman’s metallic go well with lapels and his diamond necklace. Earlier within the week, Usman solicited to struggle Saúl Álvarez, the perfect pound-for-pound boxer who — additionally on Saturday night time — delivered a masterful Eleventh-round knockout of Caleb Plant in Las Vegas. Usman’s boss, U.F.C. President Dana White, downplayed the feasibility of a crossover megafight to reporters minutes earlier than Usman’s information convention. Usman disagreed.

“Dana doesn’t know that,” Usman stated. “I want something that scares me.”

The prospect of matching Usman with the perfect boxer on the planet might not deter Usman, however White and U.F.C. officers are proper to be hesitant concerning the hypothetical bonanza. In this period of blurred strains inside fight sports activities, organizers have forfeited aggressive logic to appease a new crop of paying followers. With Usman and Álvarez, the reward might not generate the success of comparable latest experiments.

Álvarez instructions an viewers, and he produced an unquestioned consequence, knocking out Plant exactly to unify the 168-pound belts. Most of the viewers at the MGM Grand Garden Arena supported Álvarez, a Mexican who goes by the nickname Canelo, and Showtime constructed the occasion solely round him. People from throughout the nation purchased the pay-per-view broadcast, too, together with White. An image circulated on Twitter of him watching it on a monitor octagon-side as Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili fought for the 115-pound title within the U.F.C.’s co-main occasion. White later stated he had wager $100,000 on Álvarez to win by knockout.

“I watched the Canelo fight tonight,” White stated when requested if Usman ought to field Álvarez. “He don’t want to fight Canelo. Come on, man, let’s stop this.”

This isn’t the primary time White has handled crossover fights. He allowed the brash Irish U.F.C. fighter Conor McGregor to field Floyd Mayweather in 2017, a spectacle that profited McGregor at least $30 million. That sum is uncommon for combined martial arts competitions, and whereas Usman most certainly would obtain far much less for a bout with Álvarez, the quantity would nonetheless be a pay increase from what he will get dealing with opponents in combined martial arts.

Two brothers with standard YouTube channels, Jake Paul and Logan Paul, have led a shift in fight sports activities previously 12 months. Logan Paul fought Mayweather this summer time in an exhibition whereas Jake Paul has overwhelmed comparatively secure opponents: a retired basketball participant and two M.M.A. fighters previous their primes. The specifics appeared outrageous to pure boxing followers, however the brothers’ giant social media following allowed the fights to be a success.

Usman doesn’t have stardom just like the Pauls or McGregor, and he has stated he doesn’t wish to pursue it. But extra eyes on his fights would result in extra {dollars}. When requested if he would field Álvarez for charity, he laughed.

“Of course we want the money,” Usman stated.

The problem of dealing with Álvarez additionally intrigues Usman as a result of he has overwhelmed a lot of the prime contenders in his division.

“Don’t get me wrong, he is a master at what he does,” Usman stated. “I love it and I respect it, which is why I want to challenge myself.”

Usman is very revered in combined martial arts circles. After he beat Covington, White and others spoke about how he would possibly find yourself evaluating to the best welterweights of all time, like Georges St-Pierre.

Still, it’s clear that he doesn’t have the identical fan following as Álvarez. Usman’s assist at Madison Square Garden was combined, and the gang at instances chanted for Covington, a fervent supporter of the previous president, Donald J. Trump, who has made conservative politics a central a part of his persona.

The cheers for Covington grew within the later phases of the bout, as he got here again from two knockdowns in Round 2 and challenged Usman down the stretch.

Had Usman not gotten the knockdowns, the judges simply may have scored the choice otherwise, leaving room for debate and a simple avenue for a third struggle between Usman and Covington.

And past Usman-Covington, different fighters additionally commanded consideration on the U.F.C. 268 card. The lightweights Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler provided the perfect conflict of the night time, a high-paced showdown that Gaethje gained, although each males left bloody and wanted hospital examinations. Namajunas additionally defended her strawweight championship in opposition to Zhang in a break up choice.

If Usman have been to field Álvarez, the variations between combined martial arts and boxing, together with the sports activities themselves and the pay hole between the U.F.C. and the highest tier of boxing, would complicate selling the occasion.

Álvarez has stated he isn’t occupied with combating Usman, and fan want has not reached the purpose but to say in any other case. If it occurs, although, Usman stated he could be able to compete in Álvarez’s most well-liked self-discipline. Usman would struggle him in combined martial arts, too, he stated, although he doubts Álvarez would try that.

“We’re the ones that are willing to go over there and take that risk,” Usman stated. “They wouldn’t dare come over here and take that risk.”