Interview: PFL heavyweight Mohammed Usman eager to show improvements

Mohammed Usman will look a little different when he steps into the cage on Thursday, May 6, as part of the Professional Fighters League. He’s recently lost 30 pounds, moved to Denver, Colorado fulltime to train alongside the likes of Pat Barry and Rose Namajunas and polished the areas of his martial arts that lagged behind his powerful striking.

Usman (7-1), a former collegiate football player, will fight Brandon Sayles (5-1) in a heavyweight bout as part of the PFL season, with $1 million waiting at the end of the year-long season. The card is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Usman spoke with Fight Night Picks’ John Hyon Ko recently about the improvements he’s made, the difference between football and fighting and brother Kamaru’s Usman’s reign atop the UFC welterweight division.

“As a fighter, I just wanted to be complete,” Usman said. “I just wanted to tighten up those areas I can get better at so when I get in the cage, I don’t have any missteps.”

Thursday’s bout will be Usman’s first in the PFL, and after chasing a spot in the NFL for many years following his career at the University of Arizona, he’s glad to be in another professional league.

“The format of the PFL is brilliant. The season format resonated to me,” Usman said. “My whole life I was working to get to the NFL and when that didn’t work out, the PFL gave me a shot. Now I’m a professional fighter in the Professional Fighters League and it just secures my legacy in who I want to be as a professional.”

His brother, Kamaru, also recently secured his legacy in the UFC with a second-round knockout over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in Miami last month. Training alongside Kamaru has given Usman motivation, he said.

“He works twice as hard as everybody else; he stays in the gym more than everybody else, and I feed off that,” Usman said. “If he goes an hour, I’ll go two hours.”

Usman still considers himself an athlete first and foremost, but knows mixed martial arts can be a lifelong pursuit of perfection for him now. He’s fallen in love with the learning in the sport and it’s fueled him to learn more.

While the adrenaline of a football game is very high, there’s nothing like stepping into a cage, he said.

“If you take a football player right now and put them in a cage, they’ll hop out,” Usman said. “It’s almost like you’re overcoming a fear. When you get locked in a cage, and to get out, you have to get through this guy to come out of that cage.”

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