How UFC star Kamaru Usman became welterweight champ fuelled by the injustice of his dad’s 15-year imprisonment for fraud
WHEN Kamaru Usman celebrated his stunning victory over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261, he was likely cheered on by inmates watching at the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville, Texas.
The 33-year-old MMA star has roared to 14 straight victories in the championship without defeat, picking up the welterweight belt in the process and defending it four times.
But, if you scratch the surface of that winning streak, you'll uncover a heartbreak that fuelled his desire to become the best.
In 2010, Usman's father was sentenced to 15 years at the Seagoville prison – a sentence that he feels was unjust.
It meant that his dad, who is now out of jail, missed his son's meteoric rise. This is Usman's story.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
Born in Nigeria, which explains his nickname 'The Nigerian Nightmare', Usman came from humble beginnings.
His family home in Auchi had no plumbing, to get water they had to walk to a well and electricity was unreliable.
When he was eight, the Usmans emigrated to the US and settled in Arlington, Texas.
In the early noughties, dad Muhammad appeared to be living the American dream.
He had founded two ambulance companies, Royal Ambulance in 2003 and First Choice EMS in 2005 – that earned the entrepreneur the Republican National Committee's 'Who's Who Businessman of the Year.'
The ambulances were used for transporting dialysis patients to infusions, as well as other non-emergency procedures.
Every time an ambulance was used, the journey would be logged on a 'run sheet' and Usman was reimbursed by the medical billing company.
THE NIGERIAN NIGHTMARE
Things took a turn for the worse when Muhammad was accused of creating fraudulent run sheets by several medical companies.
Prior to his life in the States, Usman Sr had very little experience in business in his homeland.
So he employed Josie Horn, David McNac (Horn’s brother), and Shaun Outen to run the business for him.
He had fingers in other pies, including a car export business, a healthcare facility for handicapped children, and he regularly returned to Nigeria.
In 2009, a SWAT team raided Muhammad's home and arrested him on suspicion of multiple crimes.
McNac and Outen were sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud, but Usman Sr pleaded his innocence and gambled on a trial to clear his name.
However, in 2010 he was found guilty by a jury of healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, aiding and abetting and money laundering.
He was slapped with a 15-year sentence, which Kamaru opened up about on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
The fighter said: "My dad is so proud of me and I'm so proud of him I mean he raised us so well.
"When he knows, 'I didn't do anything wrong because I chose to say no I didn't do anything wrong I'm not going to take this sentence you give me.'
"They said, 'OK fine then you'll sit in there for 15 years and there's nothing you can do about it.'"
"It broke my heart man and then when I think about it I just hold it in. I try not to cry about it."
Before Usman's father was incarcerated, he was an athletic kid at Bowie High School who looked destined for a career in wrestling.
He took up the ancient sport when he was 15 and was called 'Marty' by his coach, who couldn't pronounce his full name, Kamarudeen.
It was a name that would stick with him through his amateur wrestling career.
His high-school wrestling record defied belief – 53 wins and just three losses.
It earned him recognition at national level, where he wrestled alongside current UFC star Jon Jones before heading to college.
At William Penn University in Iowa he was an NAIA national qualifier in 2007.
He transferred to University of Nebraska at Kearney a year later and helped the school win its first-ever team title.
There, he became national champion at 174 lbs in 2010 – the same year his father was sentenced.
A NEW CAREER
Wanting to take his fighting skills to a new level, Usman made his professional MMA debut in 2012 and quickly established a 5-1 record.
In 2015 he was invited to season 21 of the Ultimate Fighter – a reality show set up by the UFC that opens up the door to future talent.
Usman won two fights and was selected for the finale against American Top Team’s Hayder Hassan.
He secured the win with an arm-triangle choke, forcing his opponent into submission and earned a place in the UFC.
Since that victory, Usman has swept all before him.
He won the UFC welterweight title defeating Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in 2019, and defended the belt against Colby Covington.
The Nigerian earned a points win over Masvidal in their first fight last July, stopped Gilbert Burns in February and then produced one of the knockouts of the century in his Masvidal rematch.
With 1:02 on the clock in the second round of their rematch, Usman stunned his opponent with a savage right hand.
Masvidal collapsed to the canvas before Usman pounced on his prey with a series of brutal hammerfists to the head as he crouched over his rival.
The beaten American, 36, could offer no defence as he lost consciousness and the referee quickly stopped the fight to ensure no further damage was done.
Usman – who extended his MMA record to 19-1 – jumped out of the cage as the crowd went crazy before celebrating with UFC president Dana White.
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