WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
One appearance that was certainly unexpected was that of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who was revealed to be the MCU's latest Director of the CIA. Another character audiences were likely surprised to see was Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger, who seems to be living well in the Wakandan Ancestral Plain.
An appearance almost no one expected, though, was that of an actual African warrior that's been on top of the world in his own right since the MCU released its first Avengers flick.
The Nigerian Nightmare in Black Panther 2
Nigerian UFC sensation Kamara Usman has been fighting in the UFC for more than ten years, and now even Wakanda is taking notice of his ability. Usman is featured in three separate sequences of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as "Naval Officer 1," and he even has a line of dialogue tucked away in the middle of the film.
Despite the pro fighter's tenured time in the spotlight, Usman admitted in an interview with ESPN MMA he learned "how difficult this is" to bring a movie character to life "after 20 takes" of his first scene. Then again, his first-ever Hollywood scene may have come with a little added pressure, as it was filmed "in a room with Angela Bassett (and) Winston Duke:"
"The first day on set, my first scene, I'm on set and I had to do a scene in the room with Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, everyone, literally the cast of the movie is there, and... I'm standing literally a few feet away from Angela Bassett. And this is a woman that I admired her work since I was a teenager. And so I'm just sitting there, like, 'Oh, crap, I can't mess up. I can't mess up my one line.' And, lo and behold, after twenty takes, I didn't forget the line. And I'm like, 'Wow, OK, I see how difficult this is now.'"
Ironically, the UFC champ's single line is spoken while standing up to one of Wakanda's strongest warriors. When Winston Duke's M'Baku begins insulting the River Tribe, Usman's Navy Officer 1 takes a step toward him and exclaims, "Watch your tone, Jabari!"
Contrary to Usman's anxiety around acting alongside big Hollywood stars, Winston Duke said in an ESPN segment that Usman is "one of the best people" he knows and "a really great guy to have fun with on set."
Usman is also featured celebrating with the many tribes of Wakanda in the movie's opening ceremony sequence and in its closing moments at Warrior Falls.
When asked what he's most excited about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Usman said he can't wait for his "daughter to see it," because they've watched the first Black Panther "probably 15 times:"
"The biggest thing is that I'm excited for my daughter to see it, because me and her have watched Black Panther probably 15 times, just us two. I'm excited to see her watch that and know that that's me up there."
Wakanda's War Features Real Fighters
Basic MMA training has almost become a prerequisite for an actor going for an MCU gig, but sometimes, nothing beats the real thing.
With a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a 20-2 UFC record, Kamara Usman is a force to be reckoned with. He's won 7 of his 8 title fights, providing fans of all ages with an inspiring champion that's been running the octagon for the last decade. Audiences that enjoy the UFC will be elated to find one of the company's best fighters featured multiple times in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Black Panther has pulled from the MMA world before, previously tapping wrestler Shad Gaspard to perform stunts for Winston Duke's M'Baku. In fact, Phase 4 of the MCU has taken a liking to featuring some real-world fighters, including Romanian boxer Florian "Big Nasty" Munteanu playing the brute Razor Fist in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well UFC legend Georges St. Pierre returning as Batroc in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Usman's African roots add an awesome additional layer of meaning to his involvement in such an influential and impactful movie franchise. Black Panther has been iconic since its debut, and the sequel installment is no different. Wakanda Forever's story is certainly the most grounded the MCU has offered recently, so including real-world icons like Kamara Usman in Black Panther 2 only further anchors it in the present for viewers to relate to.
Additionally, Usman's excitement for his daughter's reaction to his Wakanda Forever appearance is touching, as the bond they share over Black Panther is just one example of the franchise's impact on the world.
UFC Champion Kamara Usman can be found throughout Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which is now playing in theaters.