Coming into UFC 261, Dana White had already confirmed that Colby Covington would be next in line for Kamaru Usman if Usman were to defeat Jorge Masvidal. Well, defeat Masvidal he did, so Dana White held true to his previous remarks and doubled down on Covington being Usman’s next opponent.
“It’s the fight to make,” White said at the UFC 261 post-fight press conference. “He’s the number-one guy in the world. Usman’s thing was, he didn’t want him to be the backup. He was like, ‘I want Masvidal, and I want a camp, then I’ll take (Covington) again. And he was like, ‘I’m gonna start lapping these guys.’
“But for him, to really cement your legacy…when you go in and you beat the guys who are looked at as the best in the world at that time and you beat them twice and you beat ‘em convincingly, it’s all just part of cementing that legacy that this guy’s gonna end up having someday.”
Although Dana White is giving Covington his unwavering endorsement for being the #1 contender, there are still other pivotal fights booked in the welterweight division in the near future.
First, #3-ranked Leon Edwards is set to compete against Nate Diaz at UFC 262 next month. Edwards is a name that had been thrown around as a potential next title defense for Usman even prior to Usman/Masvidal 2 being booked. Plus, White initially wanted a #1 contender fight between Covington and Edwards, and it was Covington who turned that fight down.
Another welterweight fight booked is #2-ranked Gilbert Burns vs. #5-ranked Stephen Thompson. A victory for Thompson would surely place him within the top 3 of the division, and he would be the only fighter within the division’s top 5 who Usman has not yet defeated. Regardless of this information, White doesn’t believe there is any question about who is next for “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
“I don’t think there is,” White said about there being any doubt on who is next for Usman. “I mean, the clear-cut guy right now is Colby. And then, we’ll see how all these other guys play out for the next contender. But there’s no doubt that Colby Covington’s the next guy.”
Kamaru Usman Passive About Covington Rematch
Naturally, Kamaru Usman was asked to discuss a Covington rematch after White confirmed this would be his next fight. He did not seem to be as enthusiastic about the idea as White or to the degree that he was about the Masvidal rematch.
“I’ve finished, really, my last three opponents. I finished them all,” Usman said when asked directly about Covington. “So right now, I need to just take some time and continue to train and get better. But these guys gotta show me something. Because right now, I’m the champ, and I’m the most active guy in the division. These guys can’t just wait around and wait for me to call their number. They need to show me something.”
A relevant point of note about the history between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington is that Usman repeatedly claimed that Covington rejected a fight against him four times prior to Usman becoming world champion. At one point, Usman even said that if Covington did not accept a fight with him, he would never give him an opportunity to fight him in the future. We all know that turned out to be false, as they ended up not only fighting but competing in one of the greatest fights in UFC history at UFC 245.
Nevertheless, Usman’s follow-up remarks may have alluded to this history with Covington and help shine some light on why he hasn’t seemed overly enthusiastic to give him another title shot.
“Ask Dana. I’ve fought any and everyone they put in front of me,” Usman said. “I’ve never said no. These guys ducked me for years. But I got here, and I haven’t ducked anyone. And so like I said, this is like a track meet. I’m so far ahead of these guys I’m coming around the track, and I’m coming around with vengeance right now.”
Do you think Colby Covington deserves the next title shot against Kamaru Usman?