Sodiq Yusuff made his Octagon debut in Australia at UFC Fight Night 142, where he scored a first round finish over Suman Moktahrian on the evening’s main card.
The 8-1 featherweight got the attention of the UFC when he fought on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last July, winning a three-round decision over Mike Davis. What should have been a dream come true was tempered with bad news as Yusuff prepared to travel to Australia to fight.
In his post-fight interview, Yusuff told UFC commentator Dan Hardy that he lost his brother before fighting that night but did not want to get emotional in the cage after his win. However, afterward the young fighter who came to the United States from Nigeria opened up to ESPN about what transpired before his fight and how his mother tried to protect him and keep him focused to pick up a win.
About a week before leaving for Adelaide, Yusuff found out from another family member that his brother, Tope, had passed away back home in Nigeria from typhoid fever. His mother tried to hide the news so the 25-year-old could focus on his fight camp.
“To know my mother was trying to go through that on her own, it hit me like a ton of bricks," Yusuff said. "I started crying, and when she saw that she freaked out and said, 'No, no! Stop! You have to focus!’”
Focus he did, earning a finish against Mokhtahrian at the 2:14 mark of the opening round with a flurry of power punches that forced referee Greg Kleynjans to halt the fight.
Yusuff said that his family is more important to him than MMA, but seeing his mother’s grieving turned him into a monster in the cage.
“I locked that feeling up and threw it in the back of my mind,” Yusuff said. “This sport don't mean anything, man. I do it to support my family.”
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since the first UFC. You can follow Edward on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.