Kamaru Usman could eclipse Georges St-Pierre’s haul of 12 consecutive 170lb victories if he defends his crown against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 but despite Dana White’s praise, Usman must test himself further to be called the best.
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ takes on the third defense of his UFC welterweight title late on Saturday night when he faces former training partner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu phenom Burns in the UFC 258 headliner in Las Vegas.
A win on for the reigning champ would be his 13th consecutive 170lbs victory since his debut with the UFC in 2015, marking him alone as having the lengthiest run of divisional wins in the promotion’s history – exceeding the record set by St-Pierre when he defeated Johny Hendricks by split decision back in 2013 (GSP has 13 wins in a row but the final victory came at middleweight).
And very much embodying his role as a promoter, Dana White pumped up the interest in this weekend’s contest by wondering aloud if Usman’s body of work so far in the UFC might just have him on the tracks to becoming considered as the greatest to ever do it.
“Usman has tied GSP for most consecutive UFC wins for 12. If he wins [at UFC 258], he breaks GSPs record with 13. He’s on a 16-fight win streak. This guy has not lost in 7 years,” White giddily told TMZ.
“Usman is one of those quiet killers. This guy doesn’t go out beating his chest. He’s not out acting like a lunatic. He keeps his head down, he works hard, and look at what creeps up on us as he’s about to break GSP’s record.
“If he can get through Gilbert Burns on Saturday night, which is going to be a tough fight. He’s just a guy who’ll keep grinding and then one day we’re all going to wake up and be talking about GOAT status for this guy.”
Let’s pump the breaks there for just a minute, Dana. There is no denying that Kamaru Usman is the current standard-bearer at 170lbs, but to say he’s even in the conversation today to be considered as the top welterweight fighter in UFC history – let alone the GOAT – should be considered promotional malpractice by White.
Does Usman’s career ledger, for example, even compare to that of Matt Hughes?
Let’s consider the facts: while it can be said that Usman’s second fight in the UFC was a tough one against the now impressive Leon Edwards, the Englishman was undercooked in that particular bout and couldn’t be considered as robust a threat as he is today. Then for the next couple of years, Usman set about winning decisions against a host of middle-of-the-road fighters.
Alexander Yakolev, Sean Strickland, Emil Meek – they all came, lasted 15 minutes with Usman and departed the cage for their paychecks.
Now, compare that to St-Pierre’s body of work. His debut came against Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller, a fighter with a reputation for wild antics outside of the cage but a legitimate killer inside of it.
That fight – GSP’s first in the UFC – was the only time he faced someone who hadn’t either held or fought for a UFC title. Just once. In 19 total fights.
But none of this is to say that Usman has been screaming his accolades from a mountaintop. In fact, he doesn’t even agree with White’s overly-effusive praise of him.
“Honestly, I don’t look at that. I don’t think about that,” Usman said of Dana White’s endorsement of his skills.
“I don’t think about stuff like that. I remember when Tyron Woodley was saying those things, he’s the greatest welterweight of all time and this and that. Of course he’s in that conversation but that’s not something you bestow upon yourself. That’s not something I want to think about and say I’m this, I’m that.
“No, I go out there and I do my job,” he added.
“I take it one fight at a time and then when I am done over time people look at your body of work and say ‘wow, look what he did, look who he got through, he fought everyone and he made them look like this and he fought them and did them this way.’
“I’m not the one who’s going to go out there and put that label on myself but if you actually look at my resume and when I’m said and done and you’re like ‘he 50-43’d this guy, 50-44’d this guy, he did this to that guy, man, that’s the greatest of all time.’”
For Usman, there is a clear path for him to go if he is to one day achieve the type of GOAT status currently reserved for the likes of St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jon Jones – but before he can sit back and admire his work, there remains a whole lot of work to do.
That work continues late Saturday night against Burns, a formidable for who will surely test Usman’s ground acumen. A win for the champion, as the bookies’ have predicted, will enhance his growing reputation even further.
But the GOAT? Come back to us in a few years and we’ll see where he’s at.