Give Kamaru Usman the respect he deserves, and maybe a rematch with Jorge Masvidal as well

Kamaru Usman accomplished much on Saturday night at UFC 258. He won his 13th straight UFC welterweight fight, which broke Georges St-Pierre‘s record for most wins in a row at 170. He also tied the great Khabib Nurmagomedov for the second-most wins in a row to start a UFC career. And he’s now three wins away from tying Anderson Silva‘s record of 16 straight.

Oh, and that was his 18th win overall, as well. And guess what? That was the most impressive of those 18 wins.

No, really.

He just stopped a blazing-hot Gilbert Burns. He took Burns’ best shot in the first round, rebounded and then finished him via TKO in third round. He beat Burns via strikes, which, according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, was priced at +240.

His wrestling has always been there, and now the striking is coming together, too. Coach Trevor Wittman has done it again.

Yet, Usman kept repeating after the fight to “put some respect” on his name. He said it multiple times both in the cage and during in his postfight interview.

To the uninitiated, it may sound weird for a guy with his resume to ask for respect, but he has a point. When we talk about the faces of the UFC — or even the best in the UFC — his name never seems to come up right away. It’s usually Khabib, Jon Jones, Stipe Miocic, Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes … and then maybe Usman is discussed. But he’s never mentioned among the very best.

That’s wrong, and it needs to change.

Usman is one of the best athletes in the UFC right now. He’s a top pound-for-pound fighter. He may not get the attention others get because his style during this dominant run hasn’t been very fan-friendly. However, a few more wins like this one will change that.

One thing he is not, though — at least not yet — is the greatest welterweight ever. Yes, I know he just beat one GSP record, but he’ll have to beat — or at least get closer to — another one to be in that conversation: successful title defenses. This was Usman’s fourth successful title defense. GSP had 11. There’s a massive difference.

That’s not to diminish Usman and it shouldn’t be taken that way. He’s now in Matt Hughes/Pat Miletich territory. That’s esteemed company. But he’s not the welterweight GOAT. Not yet, at least.

He does have this in common with a prime GSP, though: He’s running out fresh opponents. And fast. He has wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards (albeit before Usman and Edwards were the fighters they are today) and now Burns, just to name a few.

I was curious to see if he’d call anyone out after his win or just let the division play itself out. And wouldn’t you know it, he called out his old foe Masvidal.

What a gift that was to the BMF champion. I felt like I could hear Masvidal celebrating thousands of miles away in South Florida.

You see, Masvidal isn’t really chomping at the bit to fight Covington next. He dislikes him so much that he’d rather not give him any kind of attention, I’m told. Of course, he’d do it, but it’s not his first choice. He would, however, love to fight Usman for the title again, and this time do it with a full camp under his belt, unlike the one-week-notice fight he agreed to back in July.

The UFC has been trying to book Masvidal vs. Covington for weeks now. The matchmakers even discussed having them as the new coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter,” sources say. The deal just isn’t getting done. That’s why Dana White said on Friday he’d consider booking Covington vs. Edwards next. There’s actually been no serious talk of making that fight. His comment was more negotiation ploy, at least for now, than reality.

You can now bet Masvidal will use this callout to push for the title shot. In fact, just moments after Usman’s comments, Masvidal’s co-manager Malki Kawa threw out the idea of Usman and Masvidal serving as TUF coaches — and then fighting afterwards, of course.

Usman-Masvidal 2? Edwards-Covington? Not a bad plan B. Will the UFC bite?

I can also see the UFC trying to leverage the callout by promising a title shot to the winner of Covington-Masvidal. Two for the price of one. I mean, it’s not like Usman is going to turn around and fight in a couple months anyway.

Or the UFC can just run back the fight against Masvidal. We all wanted to see it for months last year before failed negotiations led to the promotion to booking Usman vs. Burns. Then Burns tested positive for COVID-19, and, well, you know how the rest went. Plus, the UFC does need some big-name TUF coaches.

For now, though, Usman should feel pretty good about himself. He made history. He is now in the conversation with some legends.

And he doesn’t have to worry about anyone not putting any respect on his name any time soon.

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