Kamaru Usman’s health is moving in the right direction. It’s just taking a little while.
Usman (20-1 MMA, 15-0 UFC), the reigning UFC welterweight champion, is still healing from a hand injury that has kept him out of action since a unanimous decision win over rival Colby Covington at UFC 268 in November. He’s frequently checked in with his doctor, he said, but according to his most recent appointment this past week, he still needs more time.
“What I was hoping was for the doctor to say, ‘Hey, all right, back to full-go.’ But he expressed to me that this was a tendon issue,” Usman said, in a recent interview with The Underground. “The issue with tendons is there is no blood flow there, especially when they’re in your hands. So it takes a lot longer and not just that way. It’s also right on top of my knuckle. It’s right on that money maker right there. This is the one I’m going to make contact with very, very quick.”
Usman, 35, refuses to let his eagerness get the best of him. Sure, fans want to see him back. Usman wants to be back, too. But if he rushes things, it could lead to significant long-term damage to his hand. That’s a risk he’s not will to take.
“If I don’t give it the appropriate time to heal properly, then I’m just going to split that right back open and I’m out for a whole year, potentially worse,” Usman said. “(I could) do irreparable damage to where I couldn’t potentially fight again. That’s not a chance I’m willing to take right now. I love my career.”
While the UFC’s plans seem to have Usman vs. Leon Edwards (19-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) on the docket, the champion is unsure if a rumored August timeline will happen.
“We’ll see,” Usman said. “The thing about me is I’ve always wanted to be that guy to where I was always a couple weeks away from a fight. I’m always a couple of weeks away from a fight if I really want to. It’s just now I’m in a position to where I want to make sure I’m putting out the best product that I can put out each and every time that I step in there. In order to do that, I need adequate time to prepare for a guy and go out and deliver performances. I’m listening to the doctors and I’m making sure that I’m healthy. Once I’m healthy, I’ll be the first one back in there.”
The UFC trigger-pulling on interim title implementations have become quicker as time has moved on. These days, the request of a champion for one extra month can mean an interim title will be added. Regardless of what happens, Usman said it won’t change the reality of who the undisputed champion is. He’ll be unbothered.
“I don’t really care about any of these guys, because I’ve proven who I am,” Usman said. “It’s not like, ‘You just got the title and now you’re out for a year or two years.’ No, I believe it’s what, a year? A year you’re out then it’s an interim title. I just put in a year to cement where I am in the place. Let’s be honest. An interim title really just means you’re the No. 1 contender. I don’t really think anything of it. Everyone knows who the champion is. Everyone knows who the best pound-for-pound fighter in the planet is. That’s all I’m thinking about is my health and when I can get back in there and do what I love to do.”