As Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards clash for the UFC Welterweight title this weekend, it holds significance in many aspects. The main event on Saturday will be a testament to the power of ambition as the two will showcase how far they’ve come since they first met inter the octagon 7 years ago. More importantly, it will be a testament to the things immigrants can achieve for their adopted country.
Yes both Leon and Kamaru, weren’t in the country they train and fight out of. In fact ,a surprising number of UFC stars at the very top have immigrant roots and probably explains best why these life conditions breed such hard people.
So in light of the upcoming fight here are 5 UFC stars who started off as immigrants and reached the highest level of combat.
Fighters who started off as Immigrants
The Nigerian Nightmare as the name suggests was born in Nigeria in a small city called Auchi. Despite his father being a major in the Nigerian Army, it was still difficult for the Usmans to make ends meet. Kamaru lived in destitute conditions and it was here where he learned the value of the little things in life.
His father would later move to the United States and work as a pharmacist with his son and family joining him in Dallas when Kamru was 8 years old.
It was in Texas, that Usman would first start wrestling and ultimately end up at the top of Global MMA Rankings.
Just like Kamaru, his opponent too wasn’t born in the country he represents. Born in Kingston Jamaica, the only thing Kamaru and Leon had in similar during their childhood was their poverty. Leon’s life however was much more chaotic during these days. Unlike Kamaru’s dad who was a soldier, Leon’s dad was a gang leader. Leon’s mother had him when she was only 15.
The family would move to Birmingham when Leon was aged 9, where his father continued his illegal activities. All this would catch up to him as young Leon would have to wake up to a phone call at age 13, telling him his father had been shot in a night club. While Leon toi seemed destined to go down that dark path, his mother’s Insistence on him joining an MMA Gym changed his life for the good.
Another entrant on this list from Nigeria, Adesnya’s childhood was much more stable than the ones mentioned above. Both his parents held respectable jobs in Lagos, the capital of the country.
Wanting their children to have the best education, they shifted to New Zealand when Izzy was aged 10. However not every problem can be avoided by having a stable family income. As a child in New Zealand, Adesanya was bullied by his class mates for his love of Anime and Dancing as he was yet to develop his love for MMA back then.
Now as a world champion in MMA, one can only imagine Izzy seeing the faces of the very same bullies everytime an MMA fan mocks him for his personal interests.
The meek personality that Francis carries himself with will never convey the true horrors those eyes have set their sights on. Everyone know the story, born to desolation, working in a sand mine as a child, escaping to Europe to be thwarted multiple times, and so on.
What we forget is apart from the hardship he personally had to face, he always will have to live with the memory of those who couldn’t make it and perished perhaps in front of his own eyes during the journey. It is perhaps why Francis seems barely intimidated by the UFC and their tactics to keep him in line.
And finally, there’s Khamzat. His was a life perhaps riddled with the constant fear of death as, since his birth in 1994, the country he was born into was in a constant struggle with their bigger and more powerful neighbor Russia. It was to avoid being simply remembered as collateral damage in this everlasting conflict that Chimaev and his mother moved to Sweden at the age of 18.
It was here that he got familiarized with the All Stars MMA Gym and the rest was history.