Sport

Sodiq Yusuff inspired by success of UFC's African champs Usman, Adesanya and Ngannou as he plots featherweight title run

SODIQ YUSUFF has drawn huge inspiration from the recent success of African fighters in the UFC as he plots his way up the featherweight ranks.

In the last two years, the promotion has crowned THREE African champions – sparking a boom of interest in MMA on the continent.



The Nigerian Nightmare Kamaru Usman became the promotion's first African-born champion in March 2019 when he dethroned former dominant welterweight king Tyron Woodley.

And just a few months later, Nigerian-born Kiwi Israel Adesanya would follow in his countryman's footsteps by claiming middleweight gold.

Cameroon's Francis Ngannou became the continent's third UFC titleholder late last month with a vicious second-round KO victory over Stipe Miocic at UFC 260.

The rise of African talent to the top of the mixed martial arts world has spurred on Nigerian-American Yusuff, who told SunSport:"Every time one of those guys has success, it's like another inspirational shot to me, man.

"I can't wait to join them in the future. I'm gonna bring the third one to Nigeria and bring the first one to the DMV area (Washington) in America.

"I still to this day remember that feeling when I first saw Kamaru won that belt.

"I was just as happy for Israel and Francis too, but when Kamaru got [it], the first-ever guy, I went crazy. I couldn't believe it.

GRAND NATIONAL: GET £130 IN FREE BETS FOR FESTIVAL AT AINTREE

"It's different when you see somebody that looks like you and is your skin colour or something like that.

"But when they come from your same sort of background and come from the place you come from, it's a whole different type of inspiration."

Yusuff reckons the recent successes of Usman, Adesanya and Ngannou is just the tip of the African iceberg.

He continued: "And I said it before, man, believe it or not, all we need is just the information.

"Us Africans, this sport is built for us. I've said it before. Especially Nigerians.

"I know my people, we're built for struggle. We deal with adversity very well and are able to face challenges and keep it moving.

"All we need is the information. And after a while, the sport is going to be taken over by us Africans. And as you see, we've already got three so far with belts.

Yusuff's own journey to UFC gold will resume this weekend in the co-main event of UFC on ABC 2 in Las Vegas, where he'll lock horns with Brit Arnold Allen.

The match-up is a pivotal one for the pair's hopes of rising up the 145lb ranks, with both prospects being undefeated under the UFC banner.

And it's a fight Yusuff, 27, knew would come to fruition given their respective trouble landing bouts with the featherweight division's elite.

Super said: "It makes sense right now because me and Arnold are both on similar paths and we both had a very hard time getting somebody to try pick us up that was ahead of us.

"So once I saw that wasn't happening, I kind of figured we were going to be fighting each other.

"So I started preparing for Arnold a long time before I actually got the fight call."

The soft-spoken and reserved Yusuff sees similarities between himself and Ipswich's Allen.

He said: "We're both on similar paths. He honestly is similar to me in character too. He doesn't really talk a lot, like trash talk and stuff.

"And he seems like a very cool guy. He's flew under the radar of a lot of people.

"If he was more out of character, he'd probably be a lot more popular than he actually is.

"But his technique and abilities are legit."

The prospect of locking horns with the highly-touted Arnold – who has yet to taste defeat in his seven octagon outings – excites Yusuff.

And in his mind, a win over the Almighty will force the featherweight division's big boys to take notice.

He said: "It's guaranteed. Honestly, just a win over would be a guarantee for either one of us.

"To be honest, we're probably going to fight each other again in the future.

"I think we'll fight each other when higher up in the ranks and fighting for title shots and stuff like that.

"So whoever comes out on top, is definitely going to be in the mixture for a title [shot].

"After this fight, I'll be calling out somebody that's at least in the top-six or top-seven."

Yusuff is by no means overlooking the sizeable challenge ahead of him but is confident he'll emerge from the battle of prospects victorious.

When asked to give a prediction for their tussle, he said: "I'm going with the Nigerian man, Sodiq Yusuff. I'm picking Sodiq Yusuff by finish."

Source: Read Full Article