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Give Kamaru Usman the respect he deserves, and maybe a rematch with Jorge Masvidal, as well


Kamaru Usman accomplished much on Saturday night at UFC 258 in Las Vegas. He won his 13th straight UFC welterweight fight, which broke Georges St-Pierre’s record for most victories at 170 pounds. Usman also tied the great Khabib Nurmagomedov for the second-most wins in a row to start a UFC career, and he is now three wins away from tying Anderson Silva’s record of 16 straight.

Oh, and that was his 18th win overall, as well. And guess what? That was the most impressive of those 18 wins.

No, really.

Usman just stopped a blazing-hot Gilbert Burns. He took Burns’ best shot in the first round, rebounded and then finished Burns via TKO in third round. He beat Burns via strikes, which, according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, was priced at +240.

Usman’s wrestling has always been there, and now the striking is coming together too. Coach Trevor Wittman has done it again.

Yet, Usman kept repeating after the fight to “put some respect” on his name. He said it multiple times both in the cage and during in his postfight interview.

To the uninitiated, it might sound weird for a guy with his résumé to ask for respect, but Usman has a point. When we talk about the faces of the UFC — or even the best in the UFC — his name never seems to come up right away. It’s usually Nurmagomedov, Jon Jones, Stipe Miocic, Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes … and then maybe Usman is discussed. But he is never mentioned among the very best.

That’s wrong, and it needs to change.

Usman is one of the best competitors in the UFC right now. He is a top pound-for-pound fighter. He might not get the attention others get, because his style during this dominant run hasn’t been very fan-friendly. However, a few more wins like this one will change that.

One thing he is not, though — at least not yet — is the greatest welterweight ever. Yes, I know he just beat one St-Pierre record, but Usman will have to beat — or at least get closer to — another one to be in that conversation: successful title defenses. This was Usman’s third successful title defense; GSP had 9. There’s a massive difference.

That’s not to diminish Usman, and it shouldn’t be taken that way. He is now in Matt Hughes/Pat Miletich territory. That’s esteemed company. But he isn’t the welterweight GOAT — not yet, at least.

Usman does have this in common with a prime GSP, though: He is running out fresh opponents — and fast. Usman has wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards (albeit before Usman and Edwards were the fighters they are today) and now Burns, just to name a few.

I was curious to see if Usman would call anyone out after his win or just let the division play itself out. And wouldn’t you know it, he called out his old foe Masvidal.

What a gift that was to the BMF champion. I felt like I could hear Masvidal celebrating thousands of miles away in South Florida.

You see, Masvidal isn’t really champing at the bit to fight Covington next. Masvidal dislikes him so much that he’d rather not give him any kind of attention, I’m told. Of course, Masvidal would do it, but it’s not his first choice. He would, however, love to fight Usman for the title again, and this time do it with a full camp under his belt, unlike the fight he agreed to on one week’s notice in July.

The UFC has been trying to book Masvidal vs. Covington for weeks now. The matchmakers even discussed having them as the new coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter,” sources said. The deal just isn’t getting done. That’s why Dana White said Friday he would consider booking Covington vs. Edwards next. There’s actually been no serious talk of making that fight; White’s comment was more negotiation ploy, at least for now, than reality.

You can now bet Masvidal will use this callout to push for the title shot. In fact, just moments after Usman’s comments, Masvidal’s co-manager Malki Kawa threw out the idea of Usman and Masvidal serving as TUF coaches — and then fighting afterward, of course.

Usman-Masvidal 2? Edwards-Covington? Not a bad Plan B. Will the UFC bite?

I also can see the UFC trying to leverage the callout by promising a title shot to the winner of Covington-Masvidal. Two for the price of one. I mean, it’s not like Usman is going to turn around and fight in a couple of months anyway.

Or the UFC can just run back the fight against Masvidal. We all wanted to see it for months last year before failed negotiations led to the promotion booking Usman vs. Burns. Then Burns tested positive for COVID-19, and, well, you know how the rest went. Plus, the UFC does need some big-name TUF coaches.

For now, though, Usman should feel pretty good about himself. He made history. He is now in the conversation with some legends.

And he doesn’t have to worry about anyone not putting any respect on his name any time soon.

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