From Arizona footballer to UFC fighter: How Mohammed Usman changed his life path

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Mohammed Usman was one of the favorites to win the Ultimate Fighter’s 30th season at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas in May, and the brother of former UFC welterweight champion Kamara Usman, did not disappoint.

During the heavyweight division championship, the former University of Arizona defensive lineman brutally knocked out Zac Pauga early in the second round.

“Playing for the Wildcats has been a real blessing,” Usman said. “I was very excited to play for UA.”

Mixed martial arts is part of the Usman family; Mohammed Usman’s brother, Kamara Usman, has been competing in the UFC since 2018 and became the welterweight champion in 2020. But Kamara Usman wasn’t just any UFC fighter; he is one of the greatest of all time. He was the UFC’s No. 1 pound-for-pound ranked fighter for over a year until he was recently defeated by Leon Edwards.

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“He gives me a lot of advice and we have a great relationship and he’s been my No. 1 fan since I started,” Usman said. “I would be lying to you if I said there was no pressure, but I accepted it. Sometimes when you accept the pressure, I have nothing to lose. In my mind, I have nothing to prove to these guys.

Mohammed Usman played for the Wildcats from 2010 to 2012. In his second season as a Wildcat and a senior season in college football, he played in 11 games while totaling 19 tackles and a sack.

Usman came to football after competing in high school wrestling, when he was a former Texas state wrestling champion. His main goal after high school was to make it to the NFL, but combat sports were always in the back of his head as he watched his brother’s success. Usman felt he could compete at this level as well.

“It was a more logical thing out of high school to play football than wrestling. I’m glad I wrestled in high school because it gave me the time I needed,” Usman said. “Wrestling would always prepare me to dominate football because I would be in phenomenal shape, it’s the best of both worlds.”

After Usman completed his final season at UA, he went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. He then played one season against the Uppsala 86ers of NFL Europe in Sweden, where he won Import Player of the Year.

In 2016, Usman was working at LA Fitness and decided to end his football career to pursue a path in MMA. He had recently become a father and decided to follow his brother into the ring.

Kamaru Usman (left) and his brother, Mohammed (right) sit around the MMA octagon. Mohammed is trying to follow in his brother’s footsteps and fight in the UFC.

Usman competed in the 30th season of UFC’S Ultimate Fighter competition in Las Vegas over the summer and defeated three competitors to become the Season 30 Ultimate Fighter Champion.

“I know myself and I know my abilities and I know that if I put in all the effort and all the hard work, I know I’m going to win,” Usman said. “I was just a very happy man, because I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, ups and downs. For me to kick down the door, he was such a blessed man.”

A month after his title fight, Usman is back at the gym in Colorado training for his next fight. As of now, he doesn’t have a confirmed opponent or date, but he and his team are aiming for December or January.

“The number one goal is to win my next fight in the UFC and increase those small goals, which become our big goals,” Usman said. “The ultimate goal is to be UFC champion; I want to keep the gold. I know people say that, but I really mean it. I want to join my brother as a UFC champion.


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