Emil Meek is a month away from the biggest fight of his life — and he’s still not sure whether he’ll even be able to make it.
Meek’s contest against red-hot welterweight contender Kamaru Usman on Dec. 30 at UFC 219 was thrown into uncertainty earlier this month when Meek revealed that visa issues were preventing the Norway native from traveling to the United States. Nearly two weeks have passed since the news broke, and the UFC still has not made an official announcement canceling the fight.
So is Meek fighting Usman at UFC 219 after all?
“If I get the visa I ordered, then definitely, yes, for sure. That’s basically what I can tell you,” Meek explained Monday on The MMA Hour.
“The thing is, they told me it’s either a 10-day thing or it takes six months, or anything in between it. That’s all. The UFC office just told me to have patience. … The question is not about if I’m getting it or not; it’s just when I get it, if I can get it in time.
“I got a letter from the Nevada senate and they told me that they understand that time is of the essence,” Meek added, “and they will recommend to prioritize this application and all of that, but it typically would take six months.”
Meek, 29, said his visa issues were specifically a U.S. problem. “Valhalla” explained that he would be able to fight elsewhere, such as the UFC on FOX 26 card in Winnipeg on Dec. 16 or any European card slated for 2018, but claimed that Usman was not too receptive to the idea of changing dates when Meek asked.
“The funny thing is, the second I got out of the embassy in Norway in Oslo, and they told me that this is a typical case where it could take up to six months to get the visa, I looked up Usman on Instagram and told him,” Meek said. “He goes out and tells everybody that he wants to fight everyone, anywhere, any time, right? And I texted him, ‘Hey, looks like I got visa issues here. If you want to fight me, then we can move the fight to a different country. We can fight in Canada on Dec. 16.’
“What he told me is, like, ‘Hey, sorry to hear about that. All of my people, all of my guys, they already bought tickets for Vegas.’ And this is two months away, almost two months in advance. I’m asking you, how many guys do you really think bought tickets in Vegas two months in advance, and that’s the reason that he doesn’t want to fight me? I think he’s just looking for a way out. Like, a thousand people? Five-hundred? I’d guess three. Three people out there bought tickets.”
Meek is only 1-0 in the UFC, but he is an intriguing prospect in the welterweight division. In 2016, he scored a 45-second knockout over former World Series of Fighting champion Rousimar Palhares, then captured a unanimous decision over UFC veteran Jordan Mein in his successful Octagon debut.
But Usman presents a steep step up the 170-pound ladder. “The Nigerian Nightmare” is currently the No. 12 ranked fighter in the UFC’s official welterweight rankings — and he probably deserves a spot higher than that. Usman is undefeated in the Octagon, having won a division-best six straight fights. His first-round knockout of Sergio Moraes at UFC Pittsburgh was a resounding statement win that likely thrust Usman one or two fights away from title contention. And Meek said he was thrilled to get a chance to fight a big name like Usman who few others in the division would.
“I don’t really know why people don’t want to fight him, to be honest,” Meek said. “I don’t know. I want to fight him because he’s a top-ranked guy. He definitely earned his spot there. He fought six in a row and won all of them. But if you see my last two opponents, my two guys have bigger names than all of the six guys he fought. So I think this fight absolutely makes sense, even though I think it’s a little shortcut.
“Fights like this really trigger me. I might be some kind of damaged goods or something, but if I don’t get the really top killers, the toughest guys, I don’t really get triggered as much as I used to. And this is one of the fights that really woke me up again, like the (Rousimar) Palhares fight, the Jordan Mein fight. Those are the kind of fights that I really try to do, and Usman is one of them. In my bedroom, I’ve got like a poster with No. 11 on it, because he was ranked No. 11 when I got the fight, and that’s what I wake up to and go to bed to every night. So of course that’s something I want to do, and if I don’t get it, then I’m sure the UFC will put me up with equal opponents, since this fight, to me, makes a lot of sense.”
So for now, Meek said he has no choice but to play the waiting game. There’s a chance his visa issues are resolved before UFC 219, but if they aren’t, he is willing to take the place of any of the 12 welterweights scheduled to compete at UFC on FOX 26 if injuries arise. If that plan, too, doesn’t pan out, then a dance date on March 17 at UFC London also sounds good to Meek.
But nonetheless, “Valhalla” continues to hold out hope for a holiday miracle so he can meet Usman on Dec. 30, especially since he already booked preparations to have his training camp in Las Vegas.
“I set up my whole camp over there,” Meek said. “Like, I ordered tickets for all of my guys. I have a $12,000 dollar house for a month in Vegas that was two minutes away from the UFC PI. Two minutes away from the UFC PI, and I scheduled coaches at Extreme Couture with Dewey Cooper, with Kevin Lee. Everything was set up. We were supposed to go in one week from now, and we had a whole mansion — we would take my guys over there, we would train and fight, we would have fun and be in Vegas and do all of that stuff, five weeks before the fight. So now it’s just sitting there empty.
“So if you’re heading to Vegas, I can hook you up with a place to stay.”