The road to the top is not an easy one.
It’s a tireless journey paved by dangerous decisions that one needs the confidence to attempt and the skill to succeed at. For an undefeated prospect looking to climb the ranks, Colby “Chaos” Covington saw such an opportunity to tangle with former WEC welterweight champion Mike Pyle on short notice as a potential reward that was worth the risk.
“I pride myself on being one of the best fighters in the world at welterweight,” Covington said. “It didn’t really make a difference who the name was. I wanted to go out there and showcase that I am a great fighter on my way up the ranks and I’m going to get my title shot. I wanted to show it didn’t matter about the experience factor. I wanted to show what type of fighter I am and - short notice or not - I come ready to fight.”
Not only ready to fight, but ready to win. Originally, the well-traveled veteran with nearly 40 pro bouts under his BJJ black belt was set to scrap with Sean Spencer at UFC 187. When Spencer dropped out around three weeks prior to the fight, the American Top Team-trained Covington got on the horn with his management and ATT owner Dan Lambert to get into UFC matchmaker Joe Silva’s ear. Covington got his wish and he was off to Las Vegas in search of a big W over his most prominent opponent to date.
“I hadn’t been training for a fight, but I was doing boxing and doing strength and conditioning once or twice a week,” he said. “I wasn’t in that great of shape, but I wanted to test myself and I wanted to prove to myself that under any circumstances I can get my hand raised against any opponent in the world. Mike Pyle is a big name, he’s a former world champion in the WEC. I think he was a top 15-ranked welterweight when I beat him. I wanted to prove to myself that it didn’t matter that I was taking it on short notice. And it was awesome to go fight in Las Vegas, the fight capital of the world, and it was close to my home state of Oregon. It was an awesome opportunity to go do that.”
The 27-year-old, who has spent the majority of his life ruling the wrestling mats of the “Beaver State,” earned a hard-fought unanimous decision over Pyle at UFC 187. The win improved Covington’s pro record to 8-0 and added to his two other Octagon finishes from last year. While the victory over Pyle didn’t have the highlight reel ending like the first-round stoppage of Wang Anying in his debut in Macau or the third-round tap-inducing rear naked choke of Wagner Silva in Uberlandia, Brazil, but the character building attributes of the win are immeasurable. Also, it shows future foes that even on an off day, Chaos is ready to rumble for a full 15.
“The short notice definitely played a factor, but I think it gave me much more experience and confidence going forward,” he said. “I’m going to have a lot more ease in my mind now going into a fight with a full training camp because I beat a high level opponent and went 15 minutes with a grinding pace on short notice. I feel like it’s preparing me for the future and that’s what matters to me - the future. I definitely thought I could have fought better and didn’t need to force the takedowns so much, but I think that will come with more experience in the cage. Each fight gives me more experience. Soon enough, guys will be worried about my hands and not just my wrestling, because I’ll be coming up with my hands to strike.”
Rounding out Covington’s catalogue of weaponry are the vaunted coaches of Coconut Creek’s American Top Team. With talented mentors like former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown and striking coach Paulino Hernandez, to name a couple, Covington’s growth as a martial artist is in very capable hands. But he hasn’t forgotten where he came from, which led the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler right back to the room of geared-up grapplers and the coaches of Oregon State University to kick off this training camp and, hopefully, subsequent ones.
“They are relentless and diligent workers,” Covington said. “They work extremely hard, but they also know how to coach to each and every individual. I’ve wrestled at programs where it’s just one pace - boom, boom, boom. Just running guys into the ground. [Oregon State head coach] Jim Zalesky is a good coach and he really knows how to coach each wrestler. He knows how to run guys into the ground and he know how to build a guy’s confidence up and coach every wrestler differently. We [ATT teammate Jorge Masvidal and Covington] were very lucky to spend two to three weeks out there. Those guys were coming after us and trying to take our heads off in there. As UFC fighters, they take us as we’re coming into their territory. You can tell they’re raising their level. They’re trying to beat us down and look good in front of the coaches, but they’re also trying to impress us to show us that they’re the next generation of up-and-comers. It showed in Jorge’s fight and it’s going to show in my fight.”
Up next, Covington is headed to “Sin City” once again for a clash with The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 middleweight winner Warlley Alves at UFC 194. With a perfect pro record, Alves is on an eerily similar trajectory to the top as Covington, with each being a dynamic test for the other.
As the pair are an excellent matchup on paper, the major difference is the location. For Alves, it will be his first pro bout outside of his native Brazil. For Covington, it’s a short flight that his cheering section can make, specifically his parents. On December 12 at UFC 194, a former high school wrestling team cheerleader mom and a former Southern Oregon University wrestler dad will be hollering from the crowd for Covington inside the Octagon.
“They’ll be there,” Covington said. “They look at it as an opportunity to better my life and create a good life for me if I can go on and accomplish what I’m capable of. They love the competing aspect and they love the journey. He tries to be that dad figure sometimes and make sure I’m working hard and doing the right things. He’s always trying to push me. Even if he can’t give me the best technique advice because the techniques have changed over the years, he’s always been a good role model. He’s always just trying to make sure I’m getting the most out of myself, and that’s the main thing. They’re definitely a lot more nervous watching me fight than watching me wrestle, but I know they love the sport and the competition. They know I work hard for this and it’s cool having them along for the journey.”