Surging UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman has been tapped as the official understudy for the UFC 228 main event, in the event that either welterweight champion Tyron Woodley or challenger Darren Till fails to make it to the cage.
Speaking on a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Usman divulged that he will not be surprised if his services are needed. While he doesn’t seem to expect much trouble on Woodley’s side, he is doubtful Darren Till will make weight.
“For Woodley, it’s not about making the weight, that’s not the issue. He was a wrestler; it’s not about making the weight. If Woodley doesn’t fight it’s about something else. That’s the only reason Woodley is out,” Kamaru Usman told host Luke Thomas (transcript via Peter Carroll of MMA Fighting).
“With Darren Till, he’s shown that it’s a weight issue. He’s a big guy. It’s not his fault, he’s growing, he’s a human being — he’s a big guy. With Till, it could be a weight issue and it could be something else.”
“That’s how I think of those guys. With Woodley, weight’s not going to be an issue, it’ll be something else. With Till it could be a number of things. I’m ready for either one of them. And I’m ready if nothing happens and I make weight. I did it in college every weekend for free.”
Kamaru Usman references Darren Till’s recent fight with Stephen Thompson as the reason for his concerns about a weigh-in miss. Till, to remind, missed his mark pretty significantly for this fight — and that time around, he had more time to prepare and he didn’t have to travel.
“With that Stephen Thompson fight, [Till] was given ample amount of time,” Usman said. “He knew about that awhile. He was training and training and they were basically just trying to get ‘Wonderboy’ to take the fight and fly where they were fighting. You had ample amount of time, you didn’t have to travel, you were in your hometown, you slept in you bed and things still got in the way of you making that weight. Now when you don’t have ample amount of time, you have 48 days to train and get down to weight…I saw him in Vegas he’s a big guy, a really big guy.
“Now it’s 48 days to make weight and you have to travel to America. It makes it a lot more difficult.”
Till isn’t the first huge fighter to attempt to cut down to the welterweight division, of course. For a time, two-time light heavyweight title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson went to insane lengths to fight at welterweight. When he finally abandoned the division and began fighting two weight-classes North at light heavyweight, he realized new levels of success.
Kamaru Usman sees some real similarities between Rumble and Till.
“For [Till] it’s especially tough,” said Usman. “What it reminds me of is Anthony Johnson continuously trying to make 170 back in the day. This was the same struggle and I bet it’s the same for him.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 8/20/2018.