Johannesburg, August 15 – The focus might be on heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 in California this weekend, but Nigeria’s Sodiq Yusuff will be looking to make his own emphatic statement against Gabriel Benitez.
The big-finishing Yusuff has had a tough year, not least having to deal with the sudden death of his brother from illness several months ago, but he’s not letting that deter him as he chases down glory in the stacked division.
He took time out from his busy schedule to talk to SuperSport.
You’ve had a tough year away from the Octagon, please explain how competing in MMA has helped you deal with your loss?
Honestly, they don’t really relate to each other. What really helps me is just regular stuff like being around my loved ones, being around my mother and brother. That’s my sanctuary.
What is it going to take for you to reach the level of Israel Adesanya, Francis Ngannou and other UFC A-listers/big names?
Just more awareness that’s all. At this point it’s just a matter of visibility, the talent and the skillset is there so all it is now is just getting more exposure, which is why I appreciate the spot they put me on this card.
The UFC featherweight division is a crowded place. What are your aspirations moving forward, what do you think you have to do against Benitez this weekend to make a statement of intent and set yourself apart from the rest of the division?
It definitely is a stacked division. Honestly, I think any type of finish will get me a ranking in at least the top 15.
Is that one of your major aspirations then to break into the top 15 and steadily progress to the top?
Yeah, it’s not much of an aspiration, it’s more what is going to happen. I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen.
You have lived in America for several years now, what sort of relationship do you have with Nigeria, the country of your birth?
I’m 100 percent locked in. I go back almost twice or three times every year and I go for long periods of time. I never really lost my roots with my culture, even when I was at home in the US my mum wouldn’t let us speak English in the house so I’ve never really felt like I’ve lost that connection.
You’re very vocal about bringing the UFC to Africa and raising the profile back home, is that something you’d be interested in doing, coming back to Africa and being part of the UFC’s first event on the continent, whenever that is?
Yeah definitely. It’s going to happen next year! I’ve been speaking to the universe and I believe it will happen soon. It’s about time, we have the stars, the UFC has been increasing its efforts to get it televised and we just have to find the right spot to put it on. Whichever country it is in I’m going to definitely fight on it, whatever my schedule looks like.
How do you envision the fight playing out at the weekend?
I see a slugfest really, me and him are probably going to have a fire fight and we’ll see which one of us is left standing.