Going undefeated through the career is a prospect that eludes even the greatest MMA fighters and Kamaru Usman is no exception. The UFC champion tasted defeat in his second professional MMA fight against Jose Caceres, brother of UFC veteran Alex Caceres, all the way back in 2013. The first-round submission loss is the only defeat of Usman's MMA career so far.
Kamaru Usman reflected on his loss to Caceres in a promotional short created by ESPN ahead of UFC 261. Usman said he lost composure after getting caught in Caceres's rear-naked choke and tapped out in panic, losing the fight via submission. Similar to most people in their early 20s, Kamaru Usman was struggling financially at the time. Getting choked unconscious in a fight leads to an automatic six-month suspension from the competition as per rules. Usman said that the thought of losing earnings overwhelmed him in that moment and caused him to throw the fight away. Kamaru Usman said:
"I go in, right away. Boom boom! Hit him with the one two, change levels, took him down. I'm on the top and I'm trying to land punches and I just remember he wrapped his legs around me. I never felt like that before. And, I just remember - for the first time I panicked, I could hear his corner telling him, 'he's gonna tap!' and then I remembered the rule where they say if you're choked unconscious, it's an automatic six-month suspension so you can't compete.
"So now I started thinking. I'm like, 'You know my bank account got like $17 in it! I need this cheque... If I get choked unconscious, there's no cheque coming in.' So for the first time, I quit on myself. As soon as I made that decision, I knew that I never wanted to feel that ever again. For me, the fear of losing and going through that again is greater than the thrill of winning!"
Kamaru Usman struggled to find an opponent before Jose Caceres
Experienced MMA fighters are generally inclined to avoid the embarrassment of losing to credentialed newcomers. Kamaru Usman's NCAA wrestling background made it difficult for him to find opponents after making a successful debut against David Glover in 2012. Usman claimed he was turned down by multiple fighters following the win and hence leapt at the opportunity to fight Jose Caceres on short notice when it showed.
The lack of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu caused Kamaru Usman to suffer the only loss of his career. However, 'The Nigerian Nightmare' went on to include BJJ in his training under the tutelage of Jorge Santiago. He earned the black belt after defeating Tyron Woodley to win the UFC welterweight championship in 2019. The evolution in Kamaru Usman's BJJ skills is evident from his dominant wins over one of the best MMA grapplers in Rafael Dos Anjos and Tyron Woodley.
Kamaru Usman is scheduled to attempt the fourth successful defense of his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal at the UFC 261 PPV event on April 24, 2021. The fight is a rematch of their UFC 251 showdown in July 2020 that Usman won by unanimous decision.