Last week, the UFC announced that Kamaru Usman, not Colby Covington, would be next in line to fight UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Usman will now meet Woodley in the co-main event of UFC 235, with both men figuring to cash in on what is likely to be a lucrative pay-per-view headlined by Jon Jones against Anthony Smith. Covington, meanwhile, doesn’t have a fight, and the former interim title holder has gone on the offensive against the UFC and its president Dana White, accusing the promotion of lying to him about getting the next crack at Woodley and the welterweight title.
Covington has a right to be upset. After all, he defeated Rafael dos Anjos last summer at UFC 225 to win the UFC interim welterweight title, and the fact he had the interim strap meant he should have been guaranteed a title shot against Woodley. But we all know how important timing is in this sport, and unfortunately timing didn’t work out in Covington’s favor. The UFC wanted him to fight Woodley at UFC 228, but Covington had nasal surgery and Darren Till got the fight instead. Woodley wasn’t able to fight at UFC 230, and Nick Diaz wouldn’t accept Covington’s challenge. The UFC wanted Woodley to fight Covington at UFC 233, but Woodley wasn’t ready and Covington refused to fight Usman for another interim belt. The entire event was cancelled, but most figured Covington would fight Woodley at UFC 235 once he was healthy. Not so fast.
If you ask Covington, the UFC is still angry at him for not fighting Usman at UFC 233 and that’s why White and the matchmakers snubbed him for the next title shot. There’s likely some truth to this. Covington vs. Usman for an interim belt was probably the only fight that could have saved UFC 233, but Covington said no and the UFC had no other option but to cancel the event. You know White was angry about that, and White holds grudges. It’s easy to say that Covington should have taken the Usman fight, but put yourself in his shoes for a second. Why would he take a second fight for an interim belt when the first one didn’t get him the title shot against Woodley that he coveted so much? A fight against Usman is very risky for Covington, particularly given the fact he has already done enough to earn a fight against Woodley. So it made sense for Covington to say no to the Usman fight and wait for Woodley, which is the fight most fans want to see.
But the gamble has so far not paid off for Covington. Instead of getting a title shot against Woodley, he now has no fight. The UFC apparently wants him to go to London and fight Darren Till, which is another dangerous fight with little upside. You’d think that Covington, given his ties to U.S. president Donald Trump, would be a favorite of White and co., but is seems like it’s the opposite. For whatever reason, the UFC doesn’t like Covington, and he’s made no secret how upset he is at them. He’s already publicly asked for his release from the UFC if they don’t give him a title shot, but that’s not likely to happen.
By all accounts, it appears Covington has overplayed his hand and is now on the UFC’s bad list. You’d think the UFC would want someone like Covington who can promote himself and also who can be to be one of their champions and stars now that the ESPN era is underway, but that’s not the case. Covington has picked a fight he can’t win against White, and at some point he’s going to have to back down, because in a sport without a union to protect the athletes, Covington doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.