Kamaru Usman has emerged as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC over the last two years.
'The Nigerian Nightmare' earned a title shot after running through the welterweight division with ease and produced a dominant performance against then-champion Tyron Woodley to win the belt at UFC 235. Usman has since defended his title five times.
This begs the question - how much longer can he keep going? There comes a time in a successful fighter's career where they have to consider either overstaying their welcome or leaving on top.
Arguably the greatest welterweight of all time, Georges St-Pierre, decided to vacate his belt and walk away from the division on top. While the greatest middleweight of all time, Anderson Silva, endured a turbulent run in the UFC after losing his belt to Chris Weidman.
Considering his achievements so far, retiring from the sport could be a decent option for Kamaru Usman. That said, here are five reasons why Usman should consider retiring from the UFC.
#5. Kamaru Usman's age and injuries
Kamaru Usman will turn 35 next year. While there are fighters who've found success later in their careers - the most recent being Glover Teixeira - it's not an easy task.
In a sport as demanding as MMA, being at the top takes a toll on the body, especially during the latter half of one's fighting career. There comes a point when the body starts slowing down and injuries take longer to heal.
Injuries have plagued Kamaru Usman for quite some time now. Right after he dethroned Tyron Woodley to become the new UFC welterweight champion, it was revealed that Usman had broken his foot and injured his knee. He also had to undergo a double hernia surgery.
Reflecting on his injuries on The Joe Rogan Experience, Usman said:
"I tore it before... like five weeks before the fight. But I don't know if it was completely off."
Watch Kamaru Usman discuss his injuries with Joe Rogan below:
Bad knees have also been an ever-present problem for Kamaru Usman. Speaking to Brendan Schaub, he spoke about how his knees have prevented him from running for three years. Usman is well aware that if he continues to compete at the highest level, it could have long-term consequences.
Watch Kamaru Usman's full interview with Brendan Schaub below:
#4. There are no new challenges on the horizon
Kamaru Usman appears to have run out of challengers at 170 lbs. Irrespective of who he has fought, Usman has dominated proceedings inside the octagon.
Colby Covington gave Kamaru Usman the hardest fight of his title reign at UFC 245, but ultimately fell short against 'The Nigerian Nightmare'. Usman has defended his title against Colby Covington (twice), Jorge Masvidal (twice) and Gilbert Burns so far.
Speaking to Damon Martin of MMA Fighting ahead of his rematch against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261, Usman mentioned how 'lapping' the other fighters has made him question how long he can continue doing this. He said:
“Being a realist and I’m honest with myself and I know that I can’t do this forever and I don’t want to do this forever. Like I said, we’re on a track right now, I’m just so far ahead of these guys that I’m coming back around and I’m lapping them now. So, talking to some of my mentors, and some of the greatest that have done this, what they’re telling me at some point it’s going to start, that waking up in the morning and going to the gym to put in a day’s work is going to start to get heavier and heavier when nothing really motivates me like that anymore."
Watch the full interview with Kamaru Usman below:
#3. Moving up to the middleweight division isn't an option
The UFC has had its fair share of fighters achieving success in more than one division. Conor McGregor, Henry Cejudo and Daniel Cormier, amongst others, have all moved up a weight class and conquered two divisions to become champ-champs.
Even Georges St-Pierre achieved the distinction of becoming a two-division champion. 'Rush' vacated the welterweight championship belt after defending his title against Johny Hendricks in 2013. However, he returned four years later to become the UFC middleweight champion - dethroning Michael Bisping.
With weight cuts naturally becoming harder and harder with age, moving up to the middleweight division to fight for his second title could be a good option for Kamaru Usman. But that seems less unlikely given his friendship with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Speaking on The Joe Rogan Experience, 'The Nigerian Nightmare' made it clear that he has no intentions of fighting 'The Last Stylebender' in the middleweight division.
"I don't see myself ever fighting Israel... Having two belts in Nigeria is better than one guy holding two belts."
Watch the segment of the podcast below:
Usman, however, recently said that he's open to a fight with Adesanya but it won't come cheap. During an interview with ESPN MMA, Usman said:
“There's a difference between fighting and competing. If me and him decide we wanna compete, and the UFC is throwing a $100 million dollars at us, then we'll make it happen."
That being said, the chances of a super-fight between the two champions seems unlikely. Even if it materialized, it's unlikely that it'd be a championship fight.
#2. Retiring on top is the better option for Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman sits comfortably atop the men's pound-for-pound rankings. Not only has he made light work of his opponents so far, but he also continues to get better.
Under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman, Usman has become one of the most well-rounded fighters in the world.
Following Usman's successful title defence at UFC 268 against Colby Covington, Dana White was all praise for the UFC welterweight champion. White said:
“Usman is just, this guy’s the best ever. He’s the best welterweight of all time. He’s on his way to possible GOAT status and Colby Covington is one tough dude. I mean, he is so tough.”
Watch Dana White's post-fight press conference following UFC 268 below:
Many believe that the sole reason Usman continues to fight is because he wants to overtake Georges St-Pierre's record and become the GOAT in the welterweight division.
While GSP defended his welterweight title nine times, Usman has done so on five occasions, albeit with more finishes.
Currently on a 15-fight winning streak in the UFC, he's one win away from equalling Anderson Silva's record for the longest winning streak in the promotion. Usman is just a few wins away from breaking a ton of records and cementing his place among the legends of the sport.
With a legacy to protect every time Kamaru Usman steps into the octagon, it would be wise for him to retire at the top as a champion - much like Khabib Nurmagomedov did.
#1. A potentially luctrative switch to boxing to take on Canelo Alvarez
Ahead of UFC 268, Kamaru Usman expressed his desire to venture into the pro-boxing world to fight Canelo Alvarez - the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world right now.
With nothing left to prove in MMA, Kamaru Usman sees a boxing bout with Canelo Alvarez as a real challenge with a massive reward as well.
Speaking to the press ahead of UFC 268, Kamaru Usman said:
"So if I’m looking at legacy, I want to do something that’s never been done before. These guys don’t really scare me anymore. Of course, there is the fear of myself and not competing and not looking the way that I want to look but what scares me is since when have we ever seen pound-for-pound in both combat sports [fight in] their prime? We’ve never seen that. Wouldn’t the world love to see that? I know I would.”
Watch Kamaru Usman discuss a potential switch to boxing below:
But Canelo Alvarez, while speaking to TMZ Sports ahead of his bout with Caleb Plant, shot down the challenge. Responding to a question about whether he'd accept Kamaru Usman's challenge, he said:
"I don't see. It doesn't make sense for me. I want to make history in boxing, and I don't see anything right there."
Watch Canelo Alvarez talk about super fight with Usman below:
That being said, it's too early to rule out a super fight between the two, given the potential earnings from the fight. Usman recently called out the Mexican once again, during an interview with TMZ Sports.
Comparing the recent PPV buys of their respective fights, Usman hinted at the massive payday the super fight would generate.
Although Canelo doesn't seem interested at the moment, Usman's manager Ali Abdelaziz is confident the fight will materialize in the future.
Watch Kamaru Usman's full interview below: