U.S.A! U.S.A!
December 18, 2019 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Kamaru Usman is a Nigerian American MMA Fighter. He won his match in the main event of UFC 245, shutting down his MAGA-themed opponent. But what's more impressive is how he carried himself after the fight.

His response to how he felt when the crowd started chanting "USA! USA! (etc)":
It’s not necessarily just because you’re born here, you feel privileged is what it means to be an American. No. I told you none of these guys work harder than me. That’s what it means to be an American. I work my ass off, and I’m going to continue to work my ass off and obviously with good integrity.

I don’t have to walk around like a punk and say these certain things that are going to abuse the whole country or abuse the whole world and talk about people and religions — things like that. I don’t have to. I’m going to walk with integrity because at the end of the day, I want everyone that’s watching me, every eye that’s on me, to look at me and say, ‘You know what, that’s what we want to be, that’s the example that we like.’ And so, I’m more American than him. So, when they were chanting ‘USA,’ you damn sure better believe that was because of me.

posted by ishmael (46 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
First thought: “I dislike violence.”

(Reads article.)

Final thought: “...except when it comes to punching full-blown racists in the face.”
posted by snortasprocket at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2019 [32 favorites]


“What has [Usman’s] family ever done for America beside serve in the Federal penitentiary?”


Yeah, I'd'a broken his jaw too for saying that!
posted by magstheaxe at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks I'm gonna ask that we just skip the "nobody should do MMA" thing. Be warned, this is an article about a guy injuring another guy in a sport where that's a common thing; if you go read it, that's what you'll be reading about. Where the post is about the particular racist circumstances of this event, steering instead toward a general objection to the whole sport can come across as distracting from/diminishing the importance of racism or this one event. So please save it for another time.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2019 [37 favorites]


Seems the MAGA guy was sad the ref didn’t let Usman really pummel him down more.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


the author Michael’s friends and colleagues better have bought him some drinks.

this is a FANTASTIC opening line.

A bombastic, Trump-supporting mixed martial arts fighter is desperately hoping that doctors can make his jaw great again after a “Nigerian Nightmare” smashed his MAGA mandible to smithereens, much to the dismay of xenophobic Ultimate Fighting Championship fans.

posted by affectionateborg at 9:59 AM on December 18, 2019 [32 favorites]


The author was definitely feeling it, with all the jabs at the MAGA-verse in that piece. All of which had me contentedly smiling.

But, then, at the end, that one-liner: "Mitch McConnell wishes he could help."

That one hits... just like a knock-out punch? Heh.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 10:00 AM on December 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


I had a lot of conflict with MMA but it’s probably my favorite sport now. I grew and still am of Quaker faith, and the non-violence and pacifism are a huge part of my life. I think there’s a place for this kind of sport, with the consent of the athletes. I also think it’s really cool that they have champions like Amanda Nunes (her wife Nina Ansaroff is also a UFC fighter) because you don’t see a lot of role modes like her in mainstream sports. Check out people like Damian Maia, Stephen Thompson, Max Holloway, they are all amazingly kind humans who happen to punch each other people.

It was really hard for me to feel comfortable enjoying MMA recently because of Colby Covington. The level of dislike other fighters have for him really challenged me feeling like this was a sport, and that it is okay because they don’t hate each other and are consenting. His dog whistles got the attention of not just the shittier parts of the fan base, but literally got Trump to show up at an event. So when Marc Goddard pulled Kamaru off of Covington in the fifth round, giving him the win by TKO, I’m not afraid to say I literally cried. It was like someone sticking up for me, for everyone else who hated this bullshit racist part of the sport.

Thank you Kamaru.
posted by Drumhellz at 10:05 AM on December 18, 2019 [43 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. An absolutely incredible piece of writing.
posted by azpenguin at 10:14 AM on December 18, 2019


This does have just the right amount of Jesse-Owens-playing-in-front-of-the-Fuhrer vibe to it, yes. It's also spawned some meme-tastic content on Leftbook, for those who don't mind seeing a still image of a racist POS getting his jaw busted.
posted by Mayor West at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Seeing that asshole get his due is satisfying enough, but Usman being such a class act about it in the post-match is a nice bit of icing on that cake.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:34 AM on December 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Just a data point, and no excuses or defense, but it's well-known in the MMA community that Colby Covington is putting on a heel character.
posted by brappi at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Just a data point, and no excuses or defense, but it's well-known in the MMA community that Colby Covington is putting on a heel character.

I understood that too but like, could you not pick something else as your character? Pretend to really like Voldemort or something, I don't know.
posted by axiom at 10:46 AM on December 18, 2019 [22 favorites]


Just a data point, and no excuses or defense, but it's well-known in the MMA community that Colby Covington is putting on a heel character.


“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
posted by apex_ at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2019 [83 favorites]


Usman fucking nailed it. The sentiment, the moment, all of it. Bravo.
Just a data point, and no excuses or defense, but it's well-known in the MMA community that Colby Covington is putting on a heel character.
I'm of the opinion that heels are an unpleasant, indubitably-compelling, too-often-line-crossing side effect of the dominant economic system for professional fighting, but that Covington's persona is particularly egregious. For some background on why Covington plays such an offensive, shitty, disgusting heel, here's an interview that both made me sad and informed.

If you're wondering about how a broken jaw affects a fighter's health both physically and mentally, read this story (from 2016), with reports from the like of Cub Swanson, Sam Alvey, and Eddie Wineland. It sounds completely awful.

Finally, I hope it's okay to recognize that the title fight itself was okay. Both fighters' wrestling abilities are so incredible that we were subjected to their kickboxing, which was not what it could've been. Nunes' title defense earlier in the night was worse, in terms of the skills one expects in a championship-level fight. (Nunes gassed, got pieced up on the feet, and won with a takedown-and-stall "plan B" strategy that only worked due to De Randamie's amateurish grappling, which still nabbed her two near-submissions!) Volkanovski's mostly-unexpected victory over Holloway was the best performance on the card, with terrific displays of footwork and MMA boxing from both men. Up-and-comer Petr Yan's systematic dismantling of Faber was also quite impressive.
posted by daveliepmann at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


I understood that too but like, could you not pick something else as your character? Pretend to really like Voldemort or something, I don't know.

Totally. This sort of stuff is slowly creeping into MMA (trash-talking, WWE stuff). Wish it wouldn't happen.
posted by brappi at 10:52 AM on December 18, 2019 [9 favorites]


Yeah, he was fighting slack-jawed and that will definitely get you hurt. Especially if you have a tendency to drop your guard. A few months with his jaw wired shut might act as a gentle reminder in the future...
posted by jim in austin at 10:57 AM on December 18, 2019


Just a data point, and no excuses or defense, but it's well-known in the MMA community that Colby Covington is putting on a heel character.

I understood that too but like, could you not pick something else as your character? Pretend to really like Voldemort or something, I don't know.


I think that speaks to the object lesson of Colby Covington. He is a great fighter. But you can't dress-up as a nazi and then just aw-shucks it away afterward. I will forever associate him with those racist-auctioneer type rants.
posted by ishmael at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2019 [19 favorites]


Finally, I hope it's okay to recognize that the title fight itself was okay.

While it would have been nice to see some elite wrestling, it was awarded Fight of the Night, and is in conversations for Fight of the Year tho.

As for Covington, his "character" makes me think of a line from They Might Be Giants' "Your Racist Friend": Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.

That said, I can understand it from a marketing standpoint: he guarantees that no one will ever be "Meh" about his fights with non-white fighters. A significant number of people will follow him in the hopes that he wins, another significant quantity will be hoping he loses, and people will always pay more attention when he's on the card.

I saw a bunch of stuff about Covington's toughness immediately after the fight, so it's good to see that Usman's integrity and bravery is starting to receive coverage too. Another great story involving Usman is his encounter with the mother of Tyron Woodley (the man he defeated to earn the belt) after their title fight: it moved Usman and Joe Rogan to tears.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:10 AM on December 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


I love MMA, but really think that the UFC is gradually going the way of WWE, which is unfortunate.
I think back to the days of World Extreme Cagefighting, and get wistful.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


The CNN article momentarily confused me by calling Kamaru Usman the first African UFC champion. He was and will remain the first, but Israel Adesanya is also Nigerian-born (and a New Zealander), who (more recently than Usman's welterweight-title-claiming win over Tyron Woodley) beat the Aussie Robert Whittaker to take the middleweight belt this year. With Volkanovski (also Aussie) and Holloway (of Hawaii) we seem to have a spate of both Africans and Pacific Islanders in recent champions.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:14 AM on December 18, 2019


Being a heel has always been a part of fight sports. Floyd Mayweather made a career of it. So did Mike Tyson. So did Ali. It sells, and for fight promoters that’s all that matters. Heck, for an early 20th century white America Jack Johnson was the ultimate heel.

That said... Colby Covington insists his heel turn into a Trump-loving villain isn’t an act
posted by joedan at 11:14 AM on December 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Being a heel has always been a part of fight sports. Floyd Mayweather made a career of it. So did Mike Tyson. So did Ali.

Mike Tyson bit an ear off and was convicted of rape. Pretty sure he was not just playacting a heel.
posted by srboisvert at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2019 [24 favorites]


[Usman/Covington] was awarded Fight of the Night
I understand why, because it had a well-hyped "wow!" finish and it headlined the card. (It headlined the card by following the ancient and arbitrary rule that the title fight of the heaviest weight class always does. This always sticks in my craw a bit, because the lighter fighters are usually more fun.) But the first four rounds were mostly rock-em-sock-em, with little footwork or head movement from either man, and not much excitement.
[Usman/Covington]...is in conversations for Fight of the Year
That would be a robbery and a travesty. Think of the incredible first-round beatdown Moraes put on Cejudo before the latter solved the puzzle with reckless right hand leads and entries into the clinch. Or what about Miocic's body-shot-fueled comeback victory over Cormier's wrestlefucking? Or either of Adesanya's incredible title-winning performances? I confidently place Covington/Usman in the bottom half of just title fights from this year in terms of excitement and skill displayed.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:35 AM on December 18, 2019


Mike Tyson bit an ear off and was convicted of rape

For folks who are confused, those events are not related.
posted by hanov3r at 11:36 AM on December 18, 2019 [9 favorites]


For folks who are confused, those events are not related.

Thanks for clearing that up, my head was spinning there for a second.
posted by e1c at 11:39 AM on December 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


Idk about the MMA community but my friend went to high school with Colby Covington and said he’s always been like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by gucci mane at 12:01 PM on December 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


Funny, I just finished listening to a podcast roundtable on the ethics of punching Nazis....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:02 PM on December 18, 2019


Seems the MAGA guy was sad the ref didn’t let Usman really pummel him down more.

Good lesson that even with awful people you can find common ground
posted by Cezar Golescu at 12:04 PM on December 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


pretending to be a nazi for money is indistinguishable from legitimately being one for free and i enjoyed watching him get beat the fuck down and hope it happens again.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2019 [40 favorites]


Idk about the MMA community but my friend went to high school with Colby Covington and said he’s always been like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The only people who watch Colby Covington and think his Red Cap and eliminationist rhetoric are an act, are the same people who refuse to believe eliminationist rhetoric isn't actually thing.

If it were an act, he's a moron for not recognizing the notoriety he would have if he remained in character in front of Trump the same way Stephen Colbert used to in his Better Know a District series (which is to say: Covington would have acted absurdly by being what the MAGA crowd is, but more, in order to highlight how absurd the MAGA crowd is). He was genuinely happy to be recognized by Trump, though, so an African immigrant to the U.S. LITERALLY breaking his jaw is satisfying. I'm certainly going to enjoy seeing it on replay anytime Usman has a fight being promoted.
posted by Gatyr at 12:31 PM on December 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


Whenever anyone questions the existence of racism in America, remind them of this fight between two Americans ... only one of whom got a USA! USA! chant.
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:04 PM on December 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


yeah whenever ppl get mad when I mention that I hate hearing that gross nationalistic horst wesselish chant during other, actually international, sporting events I will be excited to point to this.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:08 PM on December 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


Mike Tyson bit an ear off and was convicted of rape

For folks who are confused, those events are not related.


Well, they kinda are because Mike Tyson is the sort of fellow who would do both those things.
posted by klanawa at 1:17 PM on December 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Even if Covington was putting on an act, a lot of the crowd sure seemed to take it seriously.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:17 PM on December 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Gatyr: Total aside, but I'm unfamiliar with the use of "Red Cap" here, is that a reference to the Red Caps from the Spanish civil war (and if so, congratulations on making this MMA discussion pretty highbrow and getting into the minutiae of the history of fascism), or is it some other meaning I'm not aware of?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2019


I presume it's a reference to the red Make America Great hats?
posted by smoke at 1:21 PM on December 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


Had a good chuckle reading the article. I think it should be illegal for Micheal Harriot to get paid while obviously having so much fun writing this
posted by savitarka at 2:38 PM on December 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


"I presume it's a reference to the red Make America Great hats?" I was going for. Though come to think about it...
posted by aleph at 4:34 PM on December 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am embarrassed to have found Michael Harriot only so recently. His history threads are magic. Thank you for the post.
posted by panhopticon at 4:51 PM on December 18, 2019


If he's not supporting a racist fascist out of his personal convictions, but because he thinks it will get him money and fame, that makes him morally worse in my book. But my book is of less consequence than his effect on the world, which is bad either way.

As the Drive-By Truckers put it:
...and George Wallace died back in '98 and he's in Hell now, not because he's a racist. His track record as a judge and his late life quest for redemption make a good argument for his being, at worst, no worse than most white men of his generation, North or South. But because of his blind ambition and his hunger for votes, he turned a blind eye to the suffering of black America and he became a pawn in the fight against the Civil Rights cause

...fortunately for him, the Devil is also a Southerner.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:34 PM on December 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have a few nice red caps that are decidedly un-MAGA but I feel a bit of a twinge putting them on because of the red association. But I work through that because the fuckers don’t own red.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:44 PM on December 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Idk about the MMA community but my friend went to high school with Colby Covington and said he’s always been like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I tend to assume that when MMA dudes do this sort of thing they are generally playing an exaggerated version of themselves, whereas pro wrestlers might be playing a character one hundred percent. I don't know why I assume that, exactly, except that the culture of wrestling obviously holds the ability to play a character in high esteem, whereas fighters do need to be able to fight, foremost - even if it takes more than that to become a star sometimes.
posted by atoxyl at 11:44 PM on December 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


I don't know why I assume that, exactly, except that the culture of wrestling obviously holds the ability to play a character in high esteem, whereas fighters do need to be able to fight, foremost - even if it takes more than that to become a star sometimes.

This. Whenever you step into a UFC fight you are intending to win for whatever colours you are wearing - winning is the basic thing that matters and you never (barring bribes) want not to win. Pro Wrestlers are basically improv actors and stuntmen who do everything live, and you have little more say in whether you win than e.g. Adam Driver does in whether Kylo Ren wins a given fight (a little more because it's a smaller operation). You might be looking forward to your character getting humiliated for the entertainment of the audience, which is part of why you took this silly gimmick on in the first place, and be making suggestions to make things worse for them in defeat. But the UFC fighter always wants to win.
posted by Francis at 4:54 AM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


In case a [jaw] transplant is necessary, generous fans, including Khloe Kardashian and Anne Coulter, have already stepped forward with offers of spare jawbone.

Mitch McConnell said he wishes he could help.


My favorite part.
posted by widdershins at 7:37 AM on December 19, 2019


Funny, I just finished listening to a podcast roundtable on the ethics of punching Nazis....

I hope they came down on the Pro side of punching Nazis.
Mo' punchin, mo' bettah.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 7:42 AM on December 19, 2019


For once, YouTube provides some choice comments:

It’s not his fault- he has bone spurs in his jaw.
COVINGTON GOT HIS JAW IMPEACHED
Jaw dropping performance by Usman
" I think I broke my jaw" 😂🤣 nah man! What do you mean "I" lol
posted by exogenous at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


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