American Top Team (ATT) founder Dan Lambert has recalled the moment that led to welterweight star Colby Covington chasing his persona, seemingly confirming a story that Jorge Masvidal recently disputed.
This weekend, Covington will lock horns with former friend and teammate Masvidal. In the lead-up to the fight, insults have been thrown and animosity has been high, something that will likely become more and more prominent as fight week rolls on.
But this hasn’t always been Covington.
One night changed it all—that night being UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida in October 2017. The event, held in São Paulo, Brazil, saw Covington make his ninth walk to the Octagon. But despite boasting a 7-1 promotional record and being on a four-fight win streak, “Chaos” was apparently facing the chopping block.
He altered his future with a collection of words that included: Brazil, dump, filthy, and animals.
Whether it was confirmed by Covington’s respectful interaction with Kamaru Usman following UFC 268 or long before, most in the MMA community acknowledge that Covington has developed a character that has brought him attention and headlines.
According to the founder of his former gym, ATT, which Covington was a part of until his first loss to Usman, it was either the character or free agency.
Lambert Says He Was Warned About Covington’s Likely Cut
During a recent interview with ESPN MMA’s Marc Raimondi, Lambert, who established ATT in 2001, harked back to the moment that forced Covington to change. According to him, that moment came in Singapore on June 17, 2017. On that night, “Chaos” comfortably defeated Dong Hyun Kim on the scorecards.
But while he left Asia with a victory over “Stun Gun” on his record, Covington also apparently left with a word of warning from matchmaker Sean Shelby, who’d alerted Lambert that the promotion wouldn’t look to re-sign the stylistically unappealing Covington following his next fight.
“Colby was a little bit of a problem for the UFC. Kinda like that Jon Fitch issue. He’s a guy who is going to beat just about everybody that he fights, but his style was not very exciting at the time,” said Lambert. “Case in point, he was fighting ‘Stun Gun’ in Singapore, who was obviously the favorite of the crowd, and he (Covington) went out and basically 30-26’d him. The crowd’s booing the whole time, which, for a crowd over there, is fairly rare; they’re a pretty respectful crowd. But it was not a very eventful fight.
“After the fight, Sean (Shelby) came up to me and basically said, ‘Hey man, he’s got one fight left on his contract. He’s beating guys we want to promote. Fans aren’t getting into him. If you wanna start looking for something else for him to do after his next fight, go ahead, cause we’re not gonna re-sign him,'” Lambert recalled.
Following that conversation, Lambert says he was quick to relay the message to his man, who began developing ideas on how to rescue his spot on the UFC roster.
“I went right to him in the locker room that night, right after I talked to Sean. I said, ‘Hey man, here’s what Sean told me. Obviously, we’re not gonna be able to change things overnight with the way you fight; your style is your style. But there’s other things you might be able to change.’ And I asked Sean if he could fight Demian Maia next in Brazil and he said yes,” continued Lambert. “That was a wake-up call. That was a slap to the face from Sean. Pretty Much that night he started thinking, ‘What can I do to set myself apart?”
Interestingly, Lambert’s narration supports Covington’s claim and directly goes against Masvidal. “Gamebred” recently accused his upcoming opponent of lying about the UFC’s threats to cut him.
Given that Masvidal was in Singapore to corner Covington for his fight against Kim, it is strange that Lambert and Masvidal have different versions of the same story. Either way, this is a contradiction between the two ATT allies that not many would have expected.
What do you make of the alterations Colby Covington has made to his persona since his 2017 victory over Dong Hyun Kim? Has he gone too far?