UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman’s first title defense was thought to be obvious.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” dominated former champ Tyron Woodley in a shocking five-round decision at March’s UFC 235. It was expected that Usman would defend his title against former interim champion Colby Covington next. However, Usman was forced into a significant hernia surgery following the win, making his return uncertain.
So with the champ on the sidelines for the time being, the surprising news that Covington would instead meet former champion Robbie Lawler in the main event of August 3’s UFC Newark arrived late last night. The fight has led to a muddled title picture at welterweight. For his part, Usman provided an update on his health and an indication of who he may face next shortly after ‘Chaos’ vs. ‘Ruthless’ was announced:
“I should be ready to go by November. Whoever Dana White says is next. He’s the boss. If Askren looks good and that’s who the UFC wants, he’s next.”
Askren Saw It Coming
The words suggest that Usman expects the UFC to move on from Covington and his over-the-top style. They may do so in favor of another brash challenger in Askren. And Askren appeared to know what that was happening even before Covington vs. Lawler was announced. Speaking at the UFC 239 media day in Los Angeles via MMA Junkie yesterday, “Funky” speculated that he could easily cut in front of ‘Chaos’ by defeating Jorge Masvidal at next week’s UFC 239 from Las Vegas:
“I thought it was a foregone conclusion that Colby and Marty [Usman] would be fighting. And then a couple weeks ago I thought, ‘Man, we’re only a month out from my fight and they still haven’t announced it – that’s weird.’ And now it’s like we’re two weeks away, and there’s no other really big events on the horizon, there’s no big press conferences. I’m like, ‘They’re not going to announce it.’”
Waiting For UFC 239?
He also speculated the UFC was waiting to see what happens in his bout with ‘Gamebred.’
Askren claimed there’s real heat between him and Usman, whom he not-so-affectionately calls ‘Marty’ due to his collegiate wrestling nickname. There isn’t a real discord or sellable rivalry between Usman and Covington on the flip side – or so Askren says:
“They’re going to wait and see what happens in my fight, and if my fight goes well, and I cut a mean promo, my fight with Marty makes a whole lot more sense than Colby vs. Marty,” Askren said. “Because Colby is trying the fake MAGA bull(expletive), but there’s no real heat between Colby and Marty. That’s not genuine. Whereas, for some reason, Marty really doesn’t like me. And so I think it would make a lot of sense. So yes, I think they are waiting 12 more days, they want to see what happens, and then they’ll make the call after that.”
Will Askren jump the welterweight title line if he beats ‘Gamebred’ next month?