Where Kamaru Usman sits among the pantheon of MMA greats will not be determined until after he decides to bring his impressive career thus far to an end. Or until after someone does that for him.
But the UFC welterweight champion knows where he wants to be seated when the time comes.
"By the time I decide to walk away from the sport, everyone is going to look back to my body of work and say, you know what, he truly was one of the greatest to ever do this," Usman told Newsday.
A win on Saturday over Colby Covington at UFC 268 will keep the UFC welterweight champion on that path. A loss inside the octagon would detour the Nigerian a bit on his journey toward MMA immortality.
It also would bring about the end of a number of notable streaks for Usman (19-1, 14-0 UFC). He has made four consecutive title defenses, including one against Covington at the end of 2019. A fifth straight successful defense would tie Usman with Matt Hughes for the second longest streak at welterweight behind Georges St-Pierre’s nine. Usman’s 14 straight wins in the UFC’s welterweight division already surpassed St-Pierre’s previous record of 12.
When your name is written favorably in statistical comparisons as Hughes and St-Pierre, then talk of being among the best ever holds some weight. It’s not just hype speak meant to create headlines, boost a profile and gain more attention and social media followers.
But Usman, 34, doesn’t want to traffic in the currency of current streaks.
"No, not right now," Usman said when asked if his records matter to him. "I think they will eventually. I think when I'm done with the sport, when I actually have time to sit back and reflect, I think, yeah, eventually being able to sit with my kids and my grandkids and let them know that, look what grandpa did, I think at that point, it will mean something. But as of right now, not really. Now, it's just about getting the next one, the next victory."
The next one could come Saturday night, and it would put him within one of Anderson Silva’s 16 straight wins and two shy of Jon Jones’ 17 (excluding his win that was overturned to a no contest).
And when your name shows up in statistical ranking sentences with Silva and Jones, that too brings some gravitas to your fight resume.
"By the time I'm said and done, I want to leave a legacy so that people say he's the greatest to ever do this," Usman said. "And of course, I cleaned up the division. I want to potentially do it over again."