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UFC 260: Kamaru Usman on Francis Ngannou: 'He has a brother who’s done it that’s in his corner'

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Whether the “Biggest Baddest Rematch” between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou on Saturday night is over in a flash or delves into deep waters, all the latter heavyweight has to do is peer through the Octagon for motivation.

In Ngannou’s corner will be none other than UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. And if there’s any relative example of who Ngannou is and where he wants to be, it’s Usman. Ngannou would like nothing more than to join his friend Usman — and middleweight titleholder Israel Adesanya — as proud, representing African world UFC champions.

“I think the right to be the UFC champion means a lot,” Ngannou tells DAZN News. “It’s all about a dream come true, the achievement.”

Usman, who became the welterweight champion in March 2019 and has gone on to defend the title three times, wants to do everything possible to ensure that Ngannou records that achievement at UFC 260 in Las Vegas.

“For me, being in his corner, being able to give him that insight is letting him know that it's OK for him to be great,” Usman tells DAZN News. “It's OK for someone who comes from the humble beginnings that he comes from, it's OK for him to be champion — that that's doable.”

Usman is proof, as his Nigerian roots paved the way for him to not only become a world champion, but a fighting world champion who has been tearing through his division.

Ngannou, who’s from Cameroon in West Africa, wants to do the same at heavyweight.

The African fighters have come a long way since making their UFC debuts back in December 2015 in Orlando. The nationally-televised card, headlined by Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone, had Ngannou launching the early prelims with a KO of Luis Henrique and Usman ending them with a unanimous decision over Leon Edwards.

“Since then, we just became friends,” Ngannou shares. “The next year I came back down to Florida just to train with him. We got really close and really support each other each way in life.

“We are very close,” he adds. “Like truly like a brother.”

Usman, 33, speaks of Ngannou, 34, as fondly, noting their African roots as a sturdy connection.

“My brotherhood with him is just one of those things — we understand each other because we come from similar backgrounds,” Usman says. “It's one of those things where when you share that camaraderie when you come from similar backgrounds. We understand the grind and the hard work that each one of us had to endure to get to this point.

“That's one of the biggest things that drew me to Francis — his story is incredible,” Usman tacks on. “Even he can't tell just you all the things. We can't comprehend all the things he's gone through and the same thing for myself. We just know it when we're around each other.”

Ngannou grew up hard in poverty, having to arduously work in sand mines at the age of 10, as he detailed on “The Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show” last month. The harrowing experience paved the way for Ngannou to make the most of his opportunity fighting, as he turned professional back in November 2013 at the age of 27.

After a successful debut alongside Usman in December 2015, Ngannou strung together five more victories, including a pulverizing KO of Alistair Overeem in December 2017 to earn his first title shot — against Miocic in January 2018.

Their original meeting had the more seasoned Miocic pulling away with a unanimous decision, as Ngannou would falter against Derrick Lewis less than six months later by unanimous decision as well.

Since then, however, Ngannou has been on a rampage, destroying Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik — each by first-round knockout for a combined time of just two minutes and 42 seconds.

Saturday night will reveal whether Ngannou can make quick work of Miocic for sweet revenge. If the fight does go the distance, however, Ngannou can always look to Usman for some timely gems.

“I know in these last few moments, those are some of the biggest things to us — asking ourselves if we're worthy enough to be champion,” Usman says. “If we're worthy enough to be recognized by the world based on where we come from because we've never seen anyone where we come from reach the heights that we're trying to reach.

“So, that's one of the biggest things I bring to Francis,” he adds, “letting him know that he has a brother who’s done it that’s in his corner and letting him know that he can do it as well.”

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