Kamaru Usman explains Ben Askren dig, thinks fight could be big

RIO DE JANEIRO – UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman hoped to fight three times this year. He still might.

Then again, rehab from surgery is eating up time, and there are “some moving pieces that need to be put together” before a fight with former interim UFC welterweight champ champ Colby Covington, Usman (15-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC) told reporters at UFC 237 this past Saturday.

Just last month, Usman told Covington (14-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) he’d have to beg to get a title fight. If that’s the qualification, we all might be waiting a while. The champ, for one, isn’t in a rush.

“This time, I want to make sure I’m doing things the right way, because I’m not just a contender any more,” he told reporters while serving as a guest fighter.

Usman also is playing it cool when it comes to former ONE Championship and Bellator welterweight titleholder Ben Askren (19-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who’s made him the butt of many jokes since signing with the UFC. Although he seemed to delight at mocking his rival’s lopsided loss to Olympic gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs at a charity event, he said he was just keeping it real.

“Ben came in thinking, ‘I’m the best at everything – I’m the best at wrestling, I’m the best at this and that,'” Usman said. “So that (tweet) was just to let him know, ‘Hey, no you’re not. Relax.’ When you go into wrestling, there’s the best guy that’s there. And he went in there and he felt that.

“Now, if you want to come into the UFC, there’s a guy that’s the best there, too – and that’s me. So when that time comes, and I get my opportunity to show him that, I will gladly do it.”

Askren’s constant ribbing once prompted Usman to corner him at a UFC press conference. Nowadays, the champ sees the bigger picture.

“As a champion, whoever I defend that belt against is going to make me a little extra money,” he said. “I need to have worthy adversaries that people are going to be interested in seeing me beat up. If he’s already starting to stir the pot and make that fight big, I love it. I have nothing against Ben Askren. When we step in that cage, I’m beating up anybody.”

Plus, Askren still has to get by Jorge Masvidal, which is no small task.

“Ben Askren was never an issue for me,” Usman said. “He came in, and of course, he wanted to really sell himself. Now, he’s in the big show and he needs to make a splash, and he did that. So I’m glad that everybody’s talking about him. That’s just another guy … that’s waiting for me.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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