With his crowd-pleasing style and killer skills, the Contender Series veteran is becoming one of the leading lights of MMA’s wave of Nigerian fighters.
When Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series—later rechristened to Dana White’s Contender Series—was first announced in 2017, a lot of mixed martial arts fans were skeptical. The reality-show format that helped the UFC gain mainstream traction with The Ultimate Fighter had begun to lose some of its luster after a dozen years, and fans wouldn’t even be spending 10 weeks with the same cast on Contender Series, which instead rotates in new faces each week, with the most impressive performances getting UFC contracts.
But while some weeks have certainly been better than others, the web series has proven to consistently draw a good amount of UFC-level talent from regional fighters who might not otherwise get a chance to show what they can do.
“A lot of us [from Contender Series] are showing out, and even though maybe I’ve had a little more success than the rest of them, it’s been a pretty solid roster so far,” says “Super” Sodiq Yusuff, who earned his contract after dominating his opponent during the show’s second season. “No one’s come from that show and just been flat-out losing, and most of us have come out and put up a good little streak. The show itself was the perfect proving grounds for me. I know they changed some stuff up since the last season, but when I was on, we fought at The Ultimate Fighter facility, so that was super cool. It was basically like a sparring session because your whole family and the crowd were all in one room. It was nice and loud, and it was a good pressure because you know the president of the UFC is right there too.”