Very few countries can claim the multiple division martial arts championships in the UFC, but the evolution of Nigerian MMA has jumped leaps and bounds. High profile fighters Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman have taken the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon by storm by capturing the championships in their respective divisions and remaining undefeated in them.
Israel Adesanya (21-1, UFC Middleweight Champion)
Israel Mobolaji Temitayo Odunayo Oluwafemi Owolabi Adesanya, Israel Adesanya for short, has been a professional martial artist since the age of 21.
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, until the age of 10, his parents decided that moving Adesanya and his four siblings to New Zealand was a positive choice to deliver their children a higher education.
Once Adesanya graduated school at the age of 18, an inspiration from the Muay Thai film Ong-Bak triggered him to pursue a kickboxing career – the rest was history. Putting his studies aside, Adesanya began his amateur kickboxing career with a 32-0 record before eventually turning professional. He would amass a pro kickboxing record of 80 wins, 5 losses, and an impressive 29 wins via knockout. It was certified, Adesanya was such a talented striker during his youth that it was inevitable he’d find success no matter where he fought.
Aged 21, Adesanya switched his training to mixed martial arts under the tutelage of Eugene Bareman at City Kickboxing gym, alongside future UFC fighters like Dan Hooker, Alexander Volkanovski and Kai Kara-France. The additional martial arts skill sets such as wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu were added to his skill set, allowing the dangerous striker to become a talented all-around fighter.
Before Dana White and the UFC brass becoming interested in Adesanya, he produced an 8-0 professional record on the regional scene, and upon arrival to the big stage, his striking prowess would continue to impress. During his debut for the UFC, a TKO stoppage was quickly followed by another victory just three months later. The Nigerian born warrior wanted to waste no time in becoming the best in the world.
Within one year and three months of being signed by the UFC, he’d successfully defeated all six opponents put in front of him to receive a title opportunity against Robert Whittaker. Adesanya won the UFC middleweight title fight via TKO in the second round to become the second-ever UFC champion from Nigeria.
Now boasting a 9-0 UFC record and the middleweight gold, aged 29, “The Last Stylebender” still has a prosperous career ahead of him, as Nigerian MMA fans will be excited to witness what the future holds.
Kamaru Usman (20-1, UFC Welterweight Champion)
Kamarudeen Usman (Kamaru for short) is slowly becoming one of UFC history’s most dominant welterweight champions. As the first-ever Nigerian born UFC champion, he takes ultimate pride in flying the flag for his country and achieving this accomplishment.
Born and raised in Auchi, Nigeria, in a similar fashion to Adesanya’s parents, Usman’s mother and father wanted to give their children a greater chance of success in life. So, aged 8, Usman and his two brothers started a new life in Dallas, Texas.
Usman began wrestling during his sophomore year in high school, and this move would become huge for his future as a fighter. Now known as one of the UFC’s most dangerous offensive wrestlers, the NCAA Division II wrestling champion was close to performing in the Olympics, but instead, a career in mixed martial arts had caught his eye.
Usman went on to win the UFC’s reality show (The Ultimate Fighter Season 21) following a 5-1 record on the regional MMA scene. Once Usman had acquired UFC status, his form has remained unblemished. Usman has been a goldmine by winning all thirteen of his UFC contests. Dominating the welterweight division and capturing the championship has seemed almost effortless for the Nigerian native, and it’s virtually impossible to give any contender in the division a good chance of defeating him, he will be the favorite in almost all of the casinos like Golden Nugget .
Aged 34, Usman is still young in his MMA career and could easily compete for another 6-10 years with the lack of damage he has suffered. A wrestling base has awarded Usman with some simple fights, and he will continue to break records as one of the best UFC welterweights ever to do it.