Colby Covington was his usual controversial, at times cringe-worthy self following UFC Vegas 11. Case in point: During a post-fight congratulatory phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump, which Covington rather shockingly opted to put on speaker phone during the post-fight show on ESPN+, “Chaos” came off as little more than a lap dog. Fawning over Trump to an embarrassing extreme. Shockingly, Trump managed to actually acquit himself well, whether he knew he was on air or not, at least throwing a compliment or two in Tyron Woodley’s direction.
Covington just fangirl’d his way through the entire conversation. But though his pro-wrestling heel shtick has grown tiresome against the backdrop of riot and revolt in the U.S., his work in the octagon cannot be overlooked. At 32, Colby Covington is in his prime, and may very well be the best welterweight not named Kamaru Usman at the moment.
Which creates a rather unique situation, when it comes to Colby Covington: his personality is so divisive that where most pundits and fans stand on him has more to do with politics than fighting ability. Sure, he’s brought it on himself by adopting a extreme right-wing persona under the guise of self-promotion, but it’s still folly to act dismissive of his skill.
For those who are not fans of Covington, well, UFC Vegas 11 probably stung a little. The former interim champ, now exiled from his old training ground at American Top Team, dismantled Tyron Woodley in the main event Saturday. The finish came in the fifth.
“He was done. I broke him,” Covington said during the post-fight press conference, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press. “The third round, he quit. I heard him, after I cut him open and put vicious ground n’ pound, he was done. He told his coaches he was done, he was just looking for a way out.”
Regardless of how the fight technically ended — a rib injury to Woodley, no doubt painful — there’s little question he was quickly headed to a loss in all likelihood. Certainly on the scorecards, if it got to the point. For his part, Covington believed he was setting up the finish regardless, but in his opinion, Woodley was looking for an exit.
“He would rather take the easy way out. He’d rather be a spinless coward, like he is. He’s a woke little bitch, and he got exposed tonight,” exclaimed Covington.
And there’s the rub: Covington uses controversy so much, believing it will sell, that it has almost become a crutch. How much of Colby Covington is a character, and how much of what he says is genuine belief? No one but Colby himself really knows. But he can’t go more than a few sentences without trying to remind us that he’s Captain MAGA. In any case, Covington was not about to take the high road after besting Woodley.
“That’s why he’s been running for so many years. I’ve been calling him out for five, six years now, and this is exactly why I was calling him out,” Covington insisted. “Because I knew I would do this. No one’s broke him, no one’s finished him, so don’t take away from my finish. He got knocked out, he got broken tonight. Just like I said I was going to do, I retired him.”
Whether Woodley intends to fight again remains to be seen. UFC President Dana White seemed to be leaning towards having “the talk” with Woodley following the ex-champ’s third straight loss. Broken or not, Woodley did not fight like “The Chosen One” of old.
In the meantime, Covington’s future is brighter — but still cloudy. Gilbert Burns has the next title shot. Of course, “company man” Covington said he’d step in on short notice, should anything happen. But failing that?
Well, there’s former friend Jorge Masvidal. Who has been linked to a rematch with Nate Diaz from their BMF title fight last year. Covington believes he’s “absolutely” the bigger fight however.
“Everybody knows Nate Diaz is done. He hasn’t been relevant in five, six years,” Covington said on that front. “The guy fights once every couple years, he’s got nothing left in the tank. He’s had so many fights, he has CTE. He shouldn’t even be fighting anymore, it’s a shame. His coaches, I feel bad that they let him go in the octagon anymore.”
Masvidal, meanwhile, has been talking “reckless” in the media, said Covington. And he invites “Street Jesus” to back up his words. “I back up my words. I talk the talk, and I walk the walk.”
Covington’s words would later stray back into the controversial. Asked about a statement made on social media that Tyron Woodley was a “domestic terrorist sympathizer,” “Chaos” responded by saying “because he’s standing up for life-long criminals. Black Lives Matter is a complete sham, it’s a joke. They’re taking these people that are complete terrorists. They’re taking these people that are criminals. These aren’t people that are hard-working Americans, blue collar Americans, these are bad people. They’re criminals. And they shouldn’t be attacking police.”
“If you’re breaking the law and you’re threatening the cops with weapons, you deserve to get what you get,” Covington stressed. Asked if he believed Woodley supported criminals, Covington answered “Absolutely. He’s a communist. He’s a Marxist. He stands for criminals. He hates America, and that’s why he got broke tonight.”
Covington couldn’t really pinpoint how Woodley was a Marxist, other to insist that he “hates America.” Which is a rather dubious suggestion, but one in line with the persona Covington is playing. It’s not a persona that’s all that appealing in an era where America is as fractured as ever — but it’s clearly worked for him. At least in the sense that, love him or hate him, people are paying attention. Even the president.
You’d be better off paying attention to what Colby Covington does in the cage, however. No matter where you stand on his character, Covington is perhaps just a fight away from another shot at the UFC welterweight championship.