Despite a pair of losses to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and an important grudge match with former friend and teammate Jorge Masvidal this Saturday in Las Vegas, the goal for Colby Covington remains unchanged.
He wants a title, though there is one he’s not interested in, now or ever.
“I'm not here to be the Ultimate Feelings Champion,” Covington laughs. “All these fighters, they're deep in their feelings. We're gonna go out there and it's okay to hurt someone or put them in the hospital, but they're concerned about words, and they're concerned about egos and making sure you don't say some mean words to them. So it's pretty funny and it shows how fickle these MMA fighters are.”
Those words, with nearly everyone in the 170-pound weight class, and some in the divisions above and below him on the UFC roster, have taken Covington from being a talented, yet under the radar talent to one of the biggest names in the sport, albeit a polarizing one. Polarizing sells, though, and for every fan wearing a “Chaos” t-shirt, there’s another one hoping he gets his comeuppance on fight night. As for the opposition he wages verbal warfare with, it’s often a necessary evil to get what he wants out of the sport, and while it would be nice to simply fight, that’s not the way it’s worked out.
Best Mic Moments | Colby Covington
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Best Mic Moments | Colby Covington
“Everybody has egos and they don't like the fact that I'm here and they don't like my presence,” said Covington. “I'm not an egomaniac. I'd love to like these guys, but they want to hate on the way I do business and the way I fight and the way I market myself, so that's their problem, not mine. If they want to do something about it, they can come do something about it in the UFC Octagon.”
That’s why Covington and Masvidal are in the UFC 272 main event this weekend. Longtime buddies and training partners at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, the two broke ties around 2017-18, depending on which of the combatants you talk to. It’s always a sad state of affairs when two friends have gone their separate ways, and Covington admits as much when asked if had seen the pre-fight feature on the fight done by the UFC production team.
"It's bittersweet because, on one hand, I remember talking with him all the time and being like, ‘If we have to fight someday, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it and we'll both make a lot of money and we can go back to being friends,’” Covington said. “But the other side of it is the way that it soured. He got real jealous when I beat Demian Maia and he lost to Demian Maia. It's like the old saying goes, everybody wants to see you doing well, but Jorge never wanted to see me doing better than him. So as soon as I started doing better than him, that's when he turned his back on me, backstabbed me, and started trying to undercut me in negotiations and make me look stupid in the media. Now I get to hold him accountable for all the words that he said to me and to the media.”
That desire to settle the score can be a double-edged sword, especially if emotions take Covington off his game plan and prompt him to fight Masvidal’s fight. If he stays cool, he could make it an easy fight. If he loses that cool and gets into a firefight, the advantage now swings to Masvidal’s side. Covington insists that he will do what he has been training to do once the Octagon door shuts.
“I stick to the game plan,” said Covington when asked how he keeps emotion out of Saturday’s bout. “My coaches - Cesar Carneiro, Daniel Valverde, Jonathan Lopez, Charlie Weis - they give me very good advice. You can't buy into the drama, you can't buy into the odds. You just have to focus on this fight. I'm fighting a guy that's coming to be the best he's ever been because there's so much hype around this fight and so much animosity that we're gonna get the best Jorge Masvidal we've ever got that night. So I keep my mind calm, I keep relaxed and I just stay focused on what's important, and that's going in there and getting my hand raised and doing whatever it takes to put on a show.”
When Covington is at his best, his swarming, punishing attack is compelling to watch, and it’s led him to his biggest wins over the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley – a trio of former world champions. Even when he’s lost to Usman, he was with the champion every step of the way, with a pair of intense and closely contested bouts being the result. Now he wants to get another crack at “The Nigerian Nightmare,” so staying composed and getting the win over Masvidal by any means necessary is the key, and he knows it.
“It's still fighting, and anything can happen,” Covington admits. “The biggest thing is that with a fight like this, where there's so much drama and bad blood, and we used to be best friends and now we're bitter arch-rivals and probably hate each other the most out of anybody on this Earth, it's easy to get into a brawl because you want to prove a point. But my point will be proven by just dominating and sticking to my game plan anywhere I'm good and not getting drawn into a firefight because that's what he's gonna want. He's gonna want to kiss at me and blow stuff and say he's gonna baptize me and this and that, but I gotta stick to what's good - raw American steel and being the cardio king.”
If he does leave T-Mobile Arena with his hand raised, will he get another shot at Usman anytime soon? Covington knows that likely won’t be the case, but he is confident that he will see him again before their careers draw to a close.
“I can't speak for the UFC and how they want to matchmake the fights; that's their business,” he said. “And ultimately, that's up to Dana White, Hunter Campbell and all the UFC brass. All I can do is go out there and put on the best shows and prove to the UFC that I am the best welterweight in the world. Coming off that last fight with Kamaru, I did win three out of those five rounds, and a lot of the fans thought so as well. The arena at Madison Square Garden was electric for me and they thought I won that fight. Every single fan I've talked to, 'Hey, I thought you won three, four and five clearly. I thought those were your rounds and there was no doubt about it.' So I'm not gonna chase the Usman fight to get that trilogy, but I think deep down in his heart he knows he needs to settle this business. He hasn't shown that he's the better fighter. It's a pretty even fight right now and he really hasn't pushed away from the pack to show that he's the better fighter, so I'd love to get that trilogy with Usman and I think he's open to it, but I've gotta go out there and put a couple wins together and we start with Jorge Masvidal on March 5th and then we'll see who's next.”
Covington mentioned a possible matchup with another former ATT teammate, Dustin Poirier, if “The Diamond” moves up to 170 pounds, and that would certainly keep the spotlight on “Chaos” through the end of 2022. And if not Poirier, he is well aware that there are plenty of talented welterweights who want to punch him in the face.
“There's a lot of real beef out there and animosity and drama-filled fights that need to be taken care of, and after that we'll see what the landscape of the division's at,” said Covington. “And who knows, Marty (Usman) might not even be around. He might retire, he might go up a weight class, we'll just have to see. I'm just taking it fight by fight and all I can do is focus on Jorge Masvidal this weekend.”
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Suffice to say that it’s still a good time to be in the Colby Covington business?
“It's still a great time to be in the Colby Covington Incorporated business. We're just getting started and the best is yet to come.”