UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman believes he is currently the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport after his stunning title defence against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in Florida on Sunday morning.
The Nigerian athlete, who prevailed on points in the pair's first meeting in Abu Dhabi last summer, ended any suspicions about his superiority over Masvidal, knocking out his rival with a thudding right hand one minute into the second round.
The event, which took place in front of more than 15,000 fans at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, marked the first time the UFC had staged a show in front of a capacity crowd since March last year.
The victory, Usman’s fourth successful title defence, lifted his win streak to 18 fights, extending his unbeaten record in the UFC to 14. Only Anderson Silva has more consecutive victories, at 16. At present, Usman sits second on the UFC’s men’s pound-for-pound list, behind Jon Jones.
Speaking at the post-event press conference, the champion said he is open to a rematch against Colby Covington next. Usman defeated his old adversary by fifth-round TKO in December 2019.
"With my fundamentals, I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now," Usman said. “Sky is the limit. I’m growing so much in the sport. I’m just blessed to be at this present time and moment.
"It was a sweet one, it’s up there. If you look at the knockouts now that I’m putting together, that one’s up there for sure. That’s what I wanted to do. I said I’m so far ahead of these guys, I’m coming around and lapping these guys on the track, I’m coming around with a vengeance and I had to go out there and put the nails in that coffin and I did and we turn the page and move forward.
“Now I’m satisfied. They said they wanted violence out here in Jacksonville, Florida and I went out there and gave it to them.”
UFC president Dana White had earlier said Usman is "one of the best ever, and he's on his way to probably being the greatest of all time".
White added: “When you go in and you beat the guys who are looked at as the best in the world at that time and you beat them twice and you beat them convincingly, it's all part of cementing that legacy that this guy is going to have some day.”
The loss was the first time Masvidal had been knocked out in 50 professional bouts. The American, who took the previous fight in Abu Dhabi on six days’ notice, was gracious in defeat, saying: "He's got my number, man."
Elsewhere on the card, Rose Namajunas defeated strawweight champion Weili Zhang with a stunning head-kick knockout in the opening round to regain the belt she lost to Jessica Andrade in 2019 – becoming the first female to reclaim a crown in UFC history. It brought to a halt Zhang’s 20-fight unbeaten streak.
In the event’s other championship bout, flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko cemented her lofty status by seeing off Andrade, the No 1-ranked contender, by second-round TKO. It was Shevchenko’s fifth title defence.