Kamaru Usman mimicked Georges St-Pierre in Johny Hendricks fight camp: ‘I was doing Georges better than Georges’

Kamaru Usman never had the chance to fight Georges St-Pierre, but for a few weeks at least, he got to become him.

On a recent episode of his Pound 4 Pound podcast, Usman revealed to St-Pierre that he was the main training partner of Johny Hendricks ahead of Hendricks’ epic encounter with St-Pierre at UFC 167 in November 2013. At the time, Hendricks was on a hot streak and sought to end St-Pierre’s run of eight straight title defenses, so Usman — then just starting his professional fighting career — was brought in to mimic St-Pierre.

Usman went on to have his own memorable run atop the welterweight division, but back then his main goal was working with Hendricks to dethrone “GSP.”

“I actually studied you a lot even before I was actually, I think, in the UFC,” Usman told St-Pierre. “I studied you because when you fought — I don’t know if I told you this — when you fought Johny Hendricks, I was brought in, I was his main sparring partner at one point. I was brought in to mimic you. So I watched you a lot going in to help Johny Hendricks. … I had to commit.

“I thought I was doing Georges better than Georges. I’m throwing the Superman-low kick, I’m throwing all these things out. I’m shooting on him, I’m trying to take him down, because I knew you would try to take him down. It didn’t matter what his credentials were, Johny Hendricks is a [wrestling] champ, but I knew you would try to take him down. So I’d been studying you for a while.”

Usman’s contributions paid off as Hendricks went on to give St-Pierre one of the toughest fights of his career. St-Pierre defeated Hendricks via split decision, but the judging of that contest is still disputed by fans and critics to this day. Following that contest, St-Pierre stepped away from competition, while the ensuing years saw both Hendricks and Usman become UFC champions.

Much has been made of comparing Usman’s impressive accolades to that of St-Pierre, with St-Pierre owning the UFC’s consecutive welterweight title defenses record at nine, and Usman owning the consecutive wins record at 170 pounds with 15 straight victories from 2015-22.

Usman praised his fellow welterweight great, specifically pointing to the similarity in their pre-fight ritual, which involved isolating themselves before a fight to focus on mental preparation.

“That is so surreal that you say that because I’ve never heard you say that, but I’m like — and I wasn’t taught these things — I do almost similar,” Usman said after listening to St-Pierre talk about his process before fighting. “Unfortunately, I lost the fight, Edwards, the second fight, because that fight I just had a lot of stress on me. But I was in the bathroom and I’m in the mirror and I was walking back and forth. I’m looking at the mirror because I’d look and I put myself in the scenario, and I’m talking to myself, but even before that, I do do that in my faceoff.

“That’s why most people, when they bring you back in, because most of us were main events for our last few fights, I’m sitting there, I’m crouched over, I’m talking in my head. They don’t hear me, but I’m talking in my head and I’m talking to the guy in my head, and then we back up and then it’s time to go. But it’s a mental process and I’m in this process the whole time and I think a lot of it has to do with preparation. It comes from preparations.”