Mohammed Usman believes the trauma he has suffered outside the cage has prepared him for the challenges that lie ahead in the UFC.
Usman’s two-year-old son Nash tragically died in a drowning accident in 2019.
The UFC heavyweight spoke of his heartbreak during season 30 of The Ultimate Fighter and dedicated his finale victory over Zac Pauga to Nash.
“You’ve got to be one with your emotions and instead of masking them just embrace it,” Usman tells BBC Sport.
“These emotions inside are like a whirlwind and they are fuelling me to compete. I just embrace the emotions, flow with them and let them carry me to the finish line.”
His knockout win over Pauga secured a UFC contract and Usman followed that up with a unanimous decision victory against Junior Tafa in April.
Usman, who decided to embark on a career in MMA after Nash’s birth in 2016, is now looking focus on the next chapter.
“It’s something that happened in my life, and I’m not saying that I’m trying to put it behind me, but you get to a certain point where there are some things you don’t need to keep peeling the wound back,” Usman says.
“I don’t just want to keep opening up my scab, I just want to let him [Nash] rest in peace.”
The Nigerian recognises he isn’t alone in going through a hugely life-altering experience but believes, with the support of family and friends, he has emerged as a stronger person.
Usman says: “You can’t judge anyone until you know their story and a lot of fighters have been through something traumatic.
“When I sit back and think about the struggles I’ve been through, they are way harder than getting into the cage, so people better be prepared because I’ve been through some stuff.
“I’ll take the cage any day over what I’ve been through. I’ve been through so many hardships in life that stepping into the cage gives me a release.”