Kamaru Usman will not be training with his longtime coach, Henri Hooft and at his longtime gym Sanford MMA for his upcoming fight.
Usman is set to defend his welterweight title against Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC 251. The two are longtime teammates but ahead of their clash, the champ decided to head to Denver and train under Trevor Wittman and work with the likes of Justin Gaethje and Drew Dober.
“Florida was the base for a long time, but you grow from there,” Usman told ESPN. “We always had a ton of guys, some of the best training partners out there and some great coaches.
“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career, someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill.’ It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you who also need to get attention.”
Henri Hooft has already made it clear he won’t train either guy. So, with Burns staying at Sanford MMA, he won’t have Hooft in his corner either.
For Usman, he realized he would most likely have to change gyms anyway. Sanford MMA is producing a lot of welterweights like Burns and Vicente Luque. So, Usman figured the time was now to leave.
“I think eventually I would have changed things up anyway,” Usman said. “We had a lot of welterweights at that gym. At some point, when you’re training with these guys on a daily basis and you’re the champion of the world, these guys know you in and out and if they get the better of you one day, they’re licking their chops thinking it’s their time. A little separation from that is good. It keeps that element of surprise, because these guys feel like they know you.
“One thing I firmly believe is that it’s my work. You can be with a great coach, but if you’re not putting the effort in, that coach isn’t going to help you win. That coach isn’t going to get in and fight for you. I know I put the work in.”
It will be interesting to see how this change in camps impacts Usman. But, training at elevation should only help his already tremendous cardio. As for Burns, it will be the same training partners minus Hooft helping him out.
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