By now, it’s difficult to remember a time when Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington were not rivals. The animosity between the two welterweights has contributed to two of the best title fights the division has ever seen.
In an appearance on the FULL SEND PODCAST recently, Usman discussed the origins of his long-running feud with Covington. According to a tale from the reigning champion, the tension between the two didn’t really take off until after a strange episode in an airport following a UFC event.
“Funny story: Colby, started doing this whole—because of course, he wasn’t getting any love. I mean, he was winning but he’s just a little boring, beady-eyed little mug. No one really cared about this guy. And so I’m winning, and I’m just kinda moving up more than he is. And so he started oing the shtick. He started talking shit online. He started tweeting and stuff. And then I seen it. I’m like, ‘Damn, we just got in the UFC, maybe two fights deep each. And I’m like, ‘Goddamn, why does this guy have a problem with me?’ And so we went to a fight. I forget where that was at. But we went somewhere, so we were flying back.
“So we seen him at the airport, and he’s by himself. He’s got that stupid little neck pillow on, and I seen him across. I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna run up on him. If he talk crazy, I’mma steal on him right here. We about to fight him right here.’ But then, at the same time, I’m thinking, ‘Damn, I don’t wanna be on the no-fly list. Because if you mess around in the airport, you get put on that list. I don’t wanna do that.”
What happened next threw Usman for a swerve. The mean-spirited character displayed by Covington over the Internet seemed to have vanished, leaving Usman feeling like the only bad guy in the conversation.
“So I’m thinking, ‘OK, how do I approach it? Let’s approach him here, give him the look. Let him know, ‘Hey, is is not cool.’ So I go up to him and my teammate is recording it like a jackass. He’s recording it and he’s instigating it. You know how it is. He’s like, ‘You won’t do nothin’. I bet you won’t do nothin’.’ So I walk up to him, and I’m like, ‘Alright, let me not come too aggressive, but at the same time, let him know that I’m serious.’
“So I go and I sit in front of him and I’m like, ‘What’s going on, man?’ And I give him the look, like the tough look. ‘What’s going on, man?’ And he was so nice that I felt like a jackass right after the break. I was like, ‘Ugh! Damn, I was trying to be mean, and he’s trying to be nice.’ He’s like, <polite voice> ‘What’s up, man? How you doing?’ I was like, <awkardly> ‘Uh, I’m cool. I’m cool. What’s up?’
“So I was all ready for action, but he was so nice. I was like, ‘Damn, I’m like, I’m kind of a jackass here….and so now I felt like a jerk and I’m like, <meekly> ‘Aight, um, yeah, aight, see you later.’ So I get up and I’m like, ‘Damn, I felt like a jerk for that.”
The story doesn’t end there, however. What happened next would inspire an epiphany from Usman, which is that there would inevitably come a day when he would punch Colby Covington in the face.
“Then the next week, this motherfucker gets online, he’s like, ‘Next time you see me at the airport, I’mma smack the shit out of you if I see you!’ I’m like, ‘Bro! You were just a nice guy!’ And that’s really at that point I was like, ‘OK, at some point, me and him are gonna be locked in that Octagon and we’re gonna scrap.”
Usman was victorious in both of these eventual scraps. Their bout at UFC 245 in 2019 was the MMA News Fight of the Year. And earlier this month, the premier UFC welterweights ran it back in another nail-biter. Once again, Usman would emerge victorious, keeping his undefeated UFC record intact.
Covington appeared to be friendly in the Octagon immediately after the bout concluded. However, similar to Usman’s account in the story above, Covington would then revert to trashing him from afar after their face-to-face confrontation.
What do you make of this story from Kamaru Usman?