At this point in his career, Kamaru Usman has clearly established himself as the top welterweight on the planet, but the reigning UFC champion says he’s no less driven to keep proving his doubters wrong.

“It’s funny, actually – I’ve still got that chip on my shoulder,” Usman told MMA Junkie. “It’s actually almost even bigger now, and it’s because even with all of that, for some reason, people still don’t want to give you the respect that you deserve because of maybe their personal preference. But it is what it is.”

Usman’s rise to the top of the UFC’s 170-pound division wasn’t a quick one. After serving as the winning fighter in the finals of the team-based “The Ultimate Fighter 21,” Usman would have to earn another eight consecutive victories before getting a crack at the title. While his win streak was impressive, his grinding, wrestling-based style didn’t necessarily make Usman a fan-favorite.

But even the most cynical of critics would certainly struggle to find fault in any of his recent wins over the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia – many of which were rather one-sided affairs.

But “The Nigerian Nightmare” said even he becomes a the most loved athlete in the game, he’s always going to have a little edge.

“That chip is still on my shoulder because when I got into this, it wasn’t for legacy,” Usman said. “It wasn’t for fame or money or anything of that nature. It was just simply to compete and prove that I am the best, that I can be the best at my time. And so that was my mindset, and it’s still my mindset. That’s the biggest thing that drives me, is competition. So as long as there’s competition out there, and as long as I’m – and that’s the biggest thing: I have to be honest with myself. As long as I’m honest with myself, and still capable and able to do it, I want to be the best. So that chip is still heavy on my shoulder.”

Usman has already earned two successful defenses of his title, and he’ll get a chance at a third at UFC 258, which takes place Feb. 13 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Usman (17-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC) faces former training partner Gilbert Burns (19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) in the night’s main event. Stylistically, it’s an intriguing matchup, with “Durinho” providing power on the feet but also very dangerous jiu-jitsu that could prove problematic for a grappling-heavy attack.

But Usman has found a way to absolutely shut down opponents in recent years, and he believes his mental strength has fueled that success and can do it again.

“My mind is better than all these guys in the division right now, to where it depends on him,” Usman said. “Those guys dictate how this thing is going to go. If they’ve done their homework the appropriate way and they come prepared, then they might be able to pull out a different fight out of me, like you saw in the Covington fight. He came prepared, and he pulled out that kind of fight from me. But if you don’t come prepared, it’s going to be one-sided, like every last one of my fights. It’s going to be a one-sided beating, so I’ll leave that up to him.

“We haven’t trained together in quite some time, so I’ve added some new wrinkles to my game that I’m pretty sure they don’t see coming, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’m sitting at the top.”

Check out the full interview with Usman in the video below.

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