POLLOCK’S MMA UPDATE: Usman details battle with COVID-19 last year

Kamaru Usman discusses battle with COVID last year, New Yorker feature on Ari Emanuel and Fight Island logistics, Wiz Khalifa-PFL news.

MMA NEWS

**Dotun Akintoye has an excellent feature on Kamaru Usman for ESPN Cover Story. The long-form piece details how Usman quietly dealt with COVID-19 right after fighting Jorge Masvidal last July. His symptoms included urinating blood in addition to losing his sense of smell and taste. After five days of problem, he went to the emergency room and tested positive for the virus. After eight days, he lost 17 pounds. Usman kept this private and returned to defend his championship this past February against Gilbert Burns. The story goes into Usman’s childhood upbringing, his father going to prison in 2010, and embracing his heritage and name of Kamaru (it is short for Kamarudeen but was given the nickname “Marty” by a high school wrestling coach). Usman’s mother attended her first fight in March 2019 when Usman defeated Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight Championship and his father will attend his first fight this Saturday at UFC 261 in Jacksonville.

**The New Yorker has a feature Ari Emanuel Takes on the World that covered the UFC’s move to host cards on Yas Island that year, thus alleviating some of the financial stresses Endeavor endured throughout the pandemic. The idea of holding fights on the island came from Khaldoon Al Mubarak, a partner in Abu Dhabi, who had a relationship with Emanuel going back to 2009. The UFC needed to deliver forty-two cards as part of its deal with ESPN and Al-Mubarak suggested creating a bubble for the promotion to stage its events. The New Yorker piece noted that Abu Dhabi provided an arena, private planes, food, housing, testing facilities, and paid UFC for each card “at rates that compensate for the absence of ticket sales.” The wide-ranging feature also dives into Endeavor’s IPO plans and how significant the UFC is attached to that strategy.

**The UFC 261 press conference takes place today at 4 pm ET in Jacksonville with Florida Governor Ron Desantis attending.

**UFC president Dana White tipped his hand regarding the likely contender to fight for the welterweight title after Saturday’s contest. White spoke to TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter stating that Colby Covington would be next after Kamaru Usman’s championship defense against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261. With White, it always comes with a grain of salt but at least demonstrates the position Covington appears to hold. Either outcome would provide a sellable fight involving Covington between a potential rematch against Usman from their classic in December 2019 or capitalize on the grudge before former teammates Covington and Masvidal.

**The UFC is working with O2 Industries to provide free face masks for all those attending UFC 261 this Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Masks will also be provided free of charge for those attending UFC 262 next month in Houston, Texas. During an interview with Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, Dana White stated the fans will have the choice of wearing a mask or not when they are inside the arena: (Transcribed by CBS Sports)

We had to create a bubble so that athletes wouldn’t end up with COVID and all these fights falling out, but the media was being so crazy about the whole COVID thing you had to make the media feel safe. In Jacksonville, everything is opening up again, even Vegas is gonna be open June 1st. There’s some things that are gonna be set in place, we’re still gonna have a bubble for the athletes and things like that but as far as the fans, you wear a mask or do not wear a mask. It’s up to you, it’s your decision.

**ESPN’s Marc Raimondi has a great story speaking with several PFL fighters about how they dealt with the past year away from fighting. The most incredible story is Kayla Harrison becoming the full-time guardian of her eight-year-old niece and two-year-old nephew after the death of Harrison’s stepdad, who had been the primary guardian. Raimondi also spoke with Tom Lawlor about the toll professional wrestling is taking on his body and comparisons to fighting and training:

You’re putting yourself out there and getting hit, but you have to make sure you’re not getting hit in the wrong spot. It’s not any less taxing on your body. There are some times I’ve come out of matches worse than I did in fights. But there’s also sometimes in sparring that I come out way worse than I did in fights. None of it is good for me.

**Here are the results from ONE Championship’s card that aired Wednesday night on TNT:
*John Lineker def. Troy Werthen by knockout at 4:35 of Round 1
*Yuya Wakamatsu def. Reece McLaren by unanimous decision
*Rae Yoon Ok def. Marat Gafurov by unanimous decision
*Miao Li Tao def. Ryuto Sawada by unanimous decision

**Next Wednesday’s ONE Championship card will feature Rae Yoon Ok fighting Eddie Alvarez in its fourth and final week on TNT for the month of April.

**Musician Wiz Khalifa has become an investor with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), which launches its next season on Friday night on ESPN2. Khalifa will serve in an advisory capacity for the promotion with his music integrated into the fight cards along with co-producing original content. Khalifa joins Ted Leonsis, Mark Burnett, Brandon Beck, and Kevin Hart among the league’s investors. In a press release, Khalifa noted:

I’m so proud to join forces with the Professional Fighters League. I’ve been doing MMA training for years now, and am also the biggest MMA fan – to be able to bring my expertise and vision to the sport is super exciting and I can’t wait for the action to get started on April 23.

**The fourth episode of UFC Embedded leading into UFC 261 on Saturday:

FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Matt Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 262 on May 15 (MMA Junkie)

Trevin Giles vs. Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 264 on July 10 (MMA Junkie)

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About John Pollock 5646 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.