LAS VEGAS — Colby Covington turned his fight with Tyron Woodley from a sporting rivalry into a cultural war. It became MAGA versus Black Lives Matter, conservative versus liberal, Donald Trump versus Joe Biden.
Covington is one of the world’s finest fighters, regardless of what weight class. There is little doubt of that, even though the Woodley he defeated was long past his best.
Woodley injured a rib in the fifth round of a fight that, to that point, had been dominated by Covington. Woodley offered so little offense in losing his third bout in a row that UFC president Dana White began his post-fight comments at the news conference by suggesting the ex-champion retire.
“The thing with Woodley, it doesn’t seem like his head is in the game,” White said. “It seems to be on everything but [fighting].”
Covington’s mind was on nothing but fighting for the four-plus rounds the fight lasted. But once it ended, he turned it into a rally for President Trump and spewed venom at Woodley.
He not only attacked Woodley personally, but he called the Black Lives Matter movement that Woodley ardently supports a sham.
He vehemently defended the police and referred to those protesting police brutality as criminals. He received a call from the president in his locker room following the bout and then went all “MAGA” at the news conference.
He said he’d never end his beef with Woodley because of what Woodley stands for.
“I fight every single day, not just for the Trumps but for the troops and for law enforcement,” he said. “Black Lives Matter is a complete sham. It’s a joke. You’re talking about people who are complete terrorists, people who are not hard-working people, blue-collar people. They’re criminals.”
Of Woodley, Covington said, “He’s a Communist; he’s a Marxist. He stands for criminals. He hates America. That’s why he got broke tonight.”
The fight had immense potential but turned out to be disappointing. Woodley had no offense and Covington spent much of the bout grinding him out.
At the end, when Woodley shrieked in pain and shouted, “My ribs!” Covington took the opportunity to punch him in the ribs. Duke Roufus, Woodley’s coach, told Yahoo Sports he suspected Woodley tore cartilage in his ribs.
It was the last of many indignities he served upon Woodley, whom he said was looking for a way out after the third round.
“He didn’t want to get knocked unconscious,” Covington said. “He took the easy way out. He’s a spineless coward just like [Los Angeles Lakers star] LeBron James.”
The star of the show Saturday was not Covington but rather Khamzat Chimaev, who scored yet another quick finish. This time, he used his hands to drill middleweight Gerald Meerschaert, knocking him out with a fast, powerful right to the chin in just 17 seconds.
Meerschaert said before the bout he felt disrespected because the UFC had booked Chimaev to fight Demian Maia at welterweight in November before they had fought. But on Saturday, White said there is a good opportunity that Chimaev will fight again in Abu Dhabi, where the UFC spends the next month, before he gets to the Maia fight.
“This guy is different, special and like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” White said of Chimaev, who set a UFC record for shortest span in getting three wins, pulling the feat in 66 days.
Covington won’t fight for a while, though he said he would stay in shape so that if something happened to either Kamaru Usman or Gilbert Burns in their title fight in November that he’d be ready to step in.
He also said he would like to fight his former friend and teammate, Jorge Masvidal, whom he repeatedly referred to as “Street Judas.”
“Street Judas Masvidal knows who his Daddy is,” Covington said. “I’m mad that last Father’s Day, he didn’t give me a shout out.”
Covington said he’d love to fight Nick Diaz, and said he would retire him.
He was doing everything he could to be as outrageous as possible, clearly in an attempt to attract attention. White said like it or not, it is working.
Whether or not one agrees with his politics or his approach, there is little doubt that Covington is a major player in the sport.
“The guy can fight,” White said. “He is incredible.”
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