Sean Strickland has turned down a fight with Khamzat Chimaev

Kamaru Usman was not the first, or even the second candidate for replacement when it became clear to the management of the world’s strongest league that Paulo Costa, who had contracted a staph infection, would not be able to fight against Khamzat Chimaev.

According to ESPN, the first offer to step in as a replacement was made to current UFC middleweight champion, Sean Strickland, however, the American, who sensationally took the title from Israel Adesanya last month, refused to return to the octagon on short notice.

The organization’s management then reached out to former UFC middleweight title challenger, Jared Cannonier, getting his agreement, but shortly after the head of the organization, Dana White, recorded the official fight announcement, the fourth-ranked middleweight withdrew from the fight, citing injury.

After receiving two rejections, the world’s strongest league gave Kamar Usman a chance, and the former UFC welterweight champion accepted the generous offer.

“Kamaru’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree,” ESPN quoted the Nigerian’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, as saying. “He asked, ‘Will they take care of me financially?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and he was like, ‘Let’s do it!'”

As a reminder, the middleweight bout between Hamzat Chimaev and Kamaru Usman, the winner of which will next challenge Sean Strickland, will be the second main event of UFC 294, which kicks off in a few hours in Abu Dhabi.