“Everybody loves the drama.”
UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman knows that better than anyone else as he awaits his first title defense against Colby Covington on Saturday. The bad blood between the two has made this UFC 245 fight a main event on the biggest card of the year and a must see not just for diehard fans, but for casual observers, as well.
And a lot of that attention has to do with the fact that these two combatants really don’t care for each other.
“He gets me going and I literally want to punch a hole through his head for some reason,” said Usman, who hasn’t been one to go down that trash talking route before and who seems to have been dragged into it this time simply because Covington’s rapid-fire verbal attacks have demanded an answer from the normally soft-spoken 32-year-old. And the fans have eaten it up.
“For them, it’s entertainment,” said Usman. “It’s entertaining getting to hear and see what this clown might be saying or this guy might be saying or that guy might be saying. It’s giving them something to see and talk about. At some point, whoever is talking about me that has the opportunity to be able to face me will be dealt with.”
That’s why people watch combat sports. In other sports, a feud is settled by throwing or shooting a ball and scoring more points than your rival. In MMA or boxing, you really get to settle a score. And while the attention is on the bad blood between Usman and Covington, beyond that, this is a heck of a fight to close out Saturday’s night’s card.
“All trash talking aside, I think this is a fight between the two best welterweights in the world right now,” said Usman. “Colby brings a lot of pressure and he does have some skills, so I’m not one to ignore all that. He is a dangerous fighter. But so am I, which is why I’m the undisputed champion.”
It’s as close as you will get as far as compliments go from either man, but it does show that Usman is approaching this as a serious challenge to the crown he took from Tyron Woodley in March. Then again, Usman looks at every fight the same way, as an opportunity to showcase his skills and dominate. “The Nigerian Nightmare” isn’t interested in squeaking out decisions; if he can’t finish you, he’s in the shutout business.
And a shutout is just what he got when he faced Woodley in the same T-Mobile Arena he will meet Covington in on Saturday.
“Going into the fight with Woodley, I had a lot of confidence,” Usman said. “Once you step inside that Octagon, both guys are physically fit, both guys are in shape and both guys are trained to the best of their ability because this is the highest you can get; this is a world title fight, the biggest stage you can be on. So I know both of us are physically prepared, but it’s the one who’s more mentally prepared that will prevail. And I fought that fight with Woodley in my head thousands and thousands of times. So when I stepped inside that Octagon with him, nothing was foreign to me. I had been there numerous times before in my head.”
It played out just the way he saw it, delivering one of the most dominant performances of 2019 in the process. He plans to top it this weekend.
“This is a fight I’ve wanted for years,” he said. “This is a fight the UFC tried to make on numerous occasions. So I knew what was next. This is a guy that has avoided fighting me for a long, long time. On December 14th, if he wants to be the man, he’s gonna have to fight the man and, right now, I am the man.”