Dear Colby Covington: Please Leave the Trash Talk to the Pros [Editorial]

Following his latest distasteful and painfully vacuous attempts at trash talking, Colby Covington has done nothing to endear himself to the UFC faithful

In fact, Covington may have inadvertently assigned himself to the post of the most unlikeable fighter in the promotion.

In business terms, being a fighter who plays the role of the villain is a proven way to draw attention to oneself. Floyd Mayweather Jr. became the record-breaking pay-per-view giant of boxing partly off the back of those who were happy to pay to see him lose, time after time. Of course, Mayweather never did. Conor McGregor was part of four of the five highest-grossing UFC events partly due to the same reason. What stands these two men apart from Covington is that they also had very high fanbases.

Fighters like Colby Covington have seen just how far the power of having a big mouth can get you in the MMA world. Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen before him were both gifted in the art of the verbal assault, so why wouldn’t this form of absolute self-promotion be a good road to go down? If the UFC in 2017 is a place where having a big mouth can get you into situations which would be usually out of reach (for example, Kevin Lee landing an interim title bout against Tony Ferguson at UFC 216) then it is a no-brainer, right?

The problem is that Covington does not have the wit or charisma of fighters like McGregor or Sonnen and that his approach is simply hacky and painfully trite. While McGregor’s potentially inflammatory but undoubtedly jocular threat to Jose Aldo of ‘riding into Rio de Janeiro’s favelas on horseback and killing anyone unfit for work’ may have upset some, it was at least original. Renowned for a razor-sharp tongue and some hilarious responses, the Irishman plays the part of the villain with style.

Image result for conor mcgregor jose aldo favela

Sonnen, who was perhaps the UFC’s first trash-talking A-Grader, had his own history with Brazilian fans which was equally steeped in humor and wit:

“Well, first off, my impression has been great and I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I don’t have anything against the Brazilian people. I got something against a Brazilian that’s sitting a few feet from me and maybe with a couple of other gentlemen. But your women are all okay with me, so feel free to give me a call or pay me a visit.

But as far as my impression? It’s a lot like America. You know, when I was a little kid, I remember going outside and sitting around with my friends. We’d talk about the latest technology and medicine and gaming and American ingenuity. And I would look outside and Anderson and the Brazilian kids are sitting outside playing in the mud.” – Chael Sonnen commenting ahead of his UFC 148 bout with Anderson Silva in Brazil in 2012.

Covington has certainly got his name into the press and fans are talking about him. His comments to Brazilian fans about them being “filthy animals” and of their country being a “dump” was almost a parody of trash talking. Covington then promised to beat 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley before exiting the arena under a hail of missiles and flying debris, safe in the knowledge that he had successfully plastered his name across the MMA media.

This approach is not a new thing for Covington, however. In 2015, the 29-year-old threatened to ‘bury Cathal Pendred like the British buried the Irish’:

Covington, seemingly unsatisfied that his reference to the British mass murder of Irish people had been laughed off behind facepalms, decided to go scrape the barrel of tired and banal racial stereotypes even more by affixing Pendred’s face to an image of a Leprechaun:

Not yet finished, Covington then referred to Irish people as “potato farmers” (a hint at the Irish mass starvation in the 1800’s) before claiming to be of Irish descent himself:

Colby Covington undoubtedly won the biggest fight of his career last night and it could be argued that he may have just got lost in the emotions. While his choice of words may have offended some of the less thick-skinned of the fiercely passionate and patriotic Brazilian fans, he did little to win over the rest of us. It is not that many will see him as a menace but more as an example of another fighter attempting to use trash talk to his advantage, but giving us nothing new in the process.

“Chaos” is currently 13-1 with just one single TKO on his professional career with three wins by decision in his last three bouts. As he continues his ascent up the UFC’s welterweight rankings following his victory over Maia, most will be mindful that he will have more attention from the MMA media which means more sub-standard trash talk and below-bar WWE-style theatrics.

As a fighter with undoubted talent and potential, maybe it is time for someone to have a word in Covington’s ear and suggest that he drops the act and allows his performances to do the talking. This advice could stretch to many fighters on the UFC’s roster who are failing to hit the mark with their imitation games.

Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor needs to come back and show these guys how it is done.