UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman says he was "very close" to retiring from mixed martial arts last year.
Before he was booked against ranked contender Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Chile in May 2018, Usman, No. 7 in the division at the time, said he was frustrated that so few people wanted to fight him.
"The organization said, 'That guy turned it down, that guy turned it down, that guy turned it down,'" Usman said on the "TSN MMA Show" on Monday. "I was like, 'You know what? There's no point.'"
After Ponzinibbio fell out of that bout due to an injury, Usman went on to beat Demian Maia at that event, then Rafael dos Anjos in November 2018. That earned him a shot at Tyron Woodley, whom Usman defeated for the belt at UFC 235 in March.
Long before all that, though, when he had yet to crack into the division's top 15, Usman said some fighters avoided him by saying he was a subpar fighter with a boring style.
"I couldn't get a fight. I couldn't get guys to fight me. Guys really didn't want to take the gamble by fighting me," Usman said. "You had all these top guys - guys in the top 10, top 15 - and then you've got a big shark that will eat up all of you guys that's circling the waters around you guys. And nobody wanted to let me into the party."
Usman said it took some effort to get fights even after he had become a ranked welterweight.
"Once I got in (the rankings), it was kind of a hassle to get these guys to fight me because they knew what would happen: I would dominate them and eventually, I would be the UFC welterweight champion of the world, which is what I am right now," Usman said.
Usman will defend his 170-pound title for the first time against Colby Covington in the UFC 245 main event, which takes place Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.