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

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

Mohammed Usman was a favorite to win for season 30 of the Ultimate Fighter at the Ultimate Fighting Championship Apex in Las Vegas in May, and the brother of former UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman did not disappoint.

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

“Playing for the Wildcats, it was a real blessing,” Usman said. “I was very excited to be playing for the UA.”

Mixed martial arts runs in the Usman family; Mohammed Usman’s brother, Kamaru Usman, has been competing in the UFC since 2018 and became the welterweight champion in 2019. But Kamaru 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.

“He gives me a lot of advice and we have a great relationship and he’s been my No. 1 fan since I started,” Mohammed Usman said.  “I would be lying to you if I said there wasn’t any pressure, but I embraced it. Sometimes when you embrace the pressure, I don’t have nothing to lose. In my mind I don’t have nothing to prove to these guys.”

Mohammed Usman played for the Wildcats from 2010-12. During his second season as a Wildcat and senior season in college football, he played in 11 games while totaling 19 tackles and one sack.

Mohammed Usman came to football after competing in wrestling in high school, 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 was always in the back of his head as he watched his brother’s success. Mohammed Usman felt he could compete at that level, as well.

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

After Mohammed Usman finished his last season at the UA, he went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. He then played one season Uppsala 86ers of NFL Europe in Sweden, where he won import player of the year.

In 2016, Mohammed 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 his brother's footsteps and fight in the UFC.
Kamaru Usman (left) and his brother, Mohammed (right), sit around the MMA Octagon. Mohammed is trying to follow his brother’s footsteps and fight in the UFC.

Mohammed Usman competed on season 30 of the UFC’S Ultimate Fighter competition in Las Vegas during the summer and defeated three competitors to become the Ultimate Fighter season 30 champion.

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

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

“The No. 1 goal is to win my next UFC fight and big up these small goals, which turns to our big goals,” Mohammed Usman said. “The ultimate goal is to be UFC champion; I want to hold the gold up. I know people say that, but I really mean it. I want to join my brother as UFC champion.”

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