Call him polarizing, call him cocky, call him NCAA All-American.
Long before becoming one of the top fighters in the UFC’s welterweight division, Colby Covington was a blue-chip wrestling prospect with the sport’s powerhouses in his crosshairs, and even when things didn’t exactly go right, Covington made the most of the position he was in. Often, things worked better for him as a result of early “chaos.”
“I did wrestle a year in Iowa, and I had a full ride. I was supposed to be the star,” Covington explained. “I had a setback and wasn’t able to wrestle and I had to transfer schools. It was great to transfer back to Oregon State where I grew up and where my family and my friends are at. It’s a different feeling getting to represent them; there’s a lot of pride and honor in that.”
Instead of running with the goliaths of the sport, Covington put his state on his back and wrestled against them. Covington gave up the lifelong prestige of attaching himself to the Iowa wrestling program and looked to blaze the trail for the Beaver State.
“Iowa is the cream of the crop,” Covington said. “They’re the blue chippers of wrestling. Everyone wants to go and be an Iowa wrestler. To be able to compete against those guys and beat those guys and show that you don’t have to leave your state, you can do it there, it’s about the hard work you put in and the sacrifices you make and the discipline you have.”
“The Hometown Kid Comes Home” headline may not shake the sports world as much in wrestling as it does in other sports, but in the smaller, but passionate, Oregon wrestling community, there was a chance the program would be put on the map.
There would be no press conferences, pep rallies or crowds to be pumped up. All of Covington’s excitement would have to be channeled in the wrestling room.
“When you grow up in the wrestling culture it’s all about respect, discipline and hard work,” Covington said. “It’s that blue collar mentality. You’re not out there bragging about your accomplishments or about winning a tournament or doing well with an injury because that’s life. Wrestling coaches teach that you can get through any situation as long as you have the right mindset and keep a strong mind.”
Covington had his sights set on a National title. While he did bring home a JUCO National championship for Iowa Central Community College, Covington wasn’t able to introduce orange to gold but proved himself and his state were undeniably elite.
“Being an NCAA All-American, that’s probably the most prestigious accomplishment,” said Covington. “For me, winning a Junior College National title was very motivational and I knew I was on the right path, but also winning a PAC-10 title for my school and helping us go on and win a conference title was very rewarding, as well. I was a team captain and I had to lead the team and that team hadn’t done that well in a long time.”
While Covington has willingly adopted the “heel” persona in the UFC, with an overall record of 16-2 with a second title shot on the horizon, it’s hard to deny that he’s made it.
Love him or hate him, Colby Covington set out to put Oregon on the map almost ten years ago and even without the NCAA National title, he did just that.
Catch Colby Covington’s entire UFC career by signing up for UFC FIGHT PASS today!