Colby Covington has long called for an opportunity to prove himself as one of the best welterweights in the world. Now, he’ll finally get his chance.
Covington is slated to face two-time UFC title challenger Demian Maia on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Sao Paulo. A winner of four straight fights — and seven of his eight Octagon appearances overall — Covington said Monday on The MMA Hour that he was “ecstatic” to get the opportunity to face Maia. He hopes the matchup propels him into title contention and said he was more than fine with wading into enemy territory and fighting Maia in the Brazilian’s hometown.
“I know that he only wanted to sign the dotted line to fight me if it was in his backyard, where he could have the judges and the crowd on his side,” Covington said, speaking from his hotel room in Sao Paulo. “But it’s OK, I’m willing to come to this dump and fight him.
“The A.C. is not working here, man. I’m sweating my nuts off out here in the Amazon, but it’s OK, they’ll be extra sweaty for Demian Maia when I drop them on his face on Saturday night.”
Covington, a 29-year-old up-and-comer who has been unafraid to take shots at anyone and everyone on his rise through the UFC’s welterweight division, kept up that attitude on Monday. The American Top Team fighter repeatedly and unapologetically threw jabs at Maia’s home city, while also dismissing the idea that he should worry about what the Sao Paulo residents think about his words ahead of Saturday’s event.
“I don’t think the locals are going to like me anyway once I beat dad-bod Maia,” Covington said. “So, at the end of the day, it is what it is. Sao Paulo is a dump, that’s a known fact. They f*cked up bringing me down here. I’m a problem. I’m sending their hero to hell. Sh*t, he may thank me. Hell is probably an upgrade from this place. Did I mention this place is a dump yet?”
Covington is currently the No. 8-ranked welterweight on the UFC’s official media-generated rankings, while Maia sits at No. 3. The jostle for the division’s next title shot could get interesting if Covington fulfills the promises he’s making against Maia.
While matchups between higher-ranked contenders Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal and Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos are currently booked for the upcoming UFC schedule, Covington feels strongly that a win over Maia — which would push the American’s winning streak to five straight — should propel him ahead of the pack when it comes to the next opponent for UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
“I do believe I’ll cut the line on Saturday,” Covington said. “I think that Robbie Lawler, he wasn’t competitive in the fight versus Woodley, so why redo that fight if he beats RDA? It doesn’t really make sense. That fight didn’t sell in the first place, and RDA, the UFC knows that he was ducking me and he didn’t want to fight me, so I think that I will jump the line. His wins haven’t been impressive, and after this Saturday, the UFC will know that I am the uncrowned king of this division.”
Covington and dos Anjos share plenty of history. Earlier this year, Covington campaigned heavily on social media for the opportunity to fight dos Anjos in the Brazilian’s first matchup at 170 pounds. Among Covington’s many attempts to land the fight was a memorable fake image he posted on Twitter of dos Anjos’ e-mail inbox. The two welterweights ultimately ended up being booked on the same card at UFC Singapore, but against different opponents, with dos Anjos defeating Tarec Saffiedine and Covington earning the best win of his career against Dong Hyun Kim.
Covington has since moved his trash-talking crosshairs onto a different welterweight target, taking aim at Woodley in numerous social media posts and interviews. And despite Woodley training under the same American Top Team banner as Covington, “Chaos” isn’t worried about the rift between the two fighters impacting the team.
“First off, I don’t consider Tyron Woodley a teammate,” Covington said. “He trains with Duke Roufus, Roufus is in his corner every fight. He’s been doing his training camps at Roufusport. He has an ATT affiliate in St. Louis, but OK, whatever, just because he branded an ATT so he can make some money and he had an investor, I don’t consider that a teammate. He comes to our gym maybe once a year and that’s just to make cool with (ATT owner) Dan Lambert. He just wants to stay on his good side. I mean, who wouldn’t want to stay on Dan Lambert’s good side? The guy is one of the greatest people in the world. Besides that, Tyron Woodley, he’s just an easy fight, so that’s why I’m calling him out. I’m in his nightmares. The reason he doesn’t want to say my name is because he knows what happened last time we did train together a couple of years ago. And let me tell you one thing, it wasn’t pretty. He quit in the gym.
“We were supposed to spar, like, five rounds that day,” Covington continued. “He was getting ready for Rory MacDonald, he wanted a guy who was going to pressure fight him, back him up. And he did his typical ways — back up to the cage, try and do that. And I put him up against the cage, and within two rounds, he quit. He said, ‘No, I’m done for the day. I quit training.’ His coach, Din Thomas, was like, ‘OK, you’re done for the day.’ I said, ‘Hey man, I thought we were going five rounds today?’ He’s like, ‘Tyron doesn’t want anymore, two rounds and he’s done.’ The pace, the pressure, he couldn’t handle it anymore, and that’s what’s going to happen when we fight. He’s not going to be able to handle it.”
In a way, it’s curious serendipity that Covington now gets a chance to back up some of the criticisms he’s lobbed at Woodley against an opponent like Maia.
Woodley and Maia faced off at UFC 214 in a slow and largely unpopular contest, and Covington is among the many critics who have since panned Woodley’s performance.
“It was one of the worst welterweight title fights in the history of the UFC,” Covington said. “It was an embarrassment to the division, and that’s why I’m here to resurrect this division, because Tyron Woodley is not going to resurrect this division. It’s going to be me that resurrects this division. Least strikes thrown in a title fight? That was a joke. Once I beat Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley is going to make up these preemptive injuries why he can’t fight me, but it doesn’t matter because I’ll just bitch slap him with my interim belt.
“I think that he’s going to make up some injuries,” Covington continued, “start saying, ‘Oh, I want the money fight. I want (Michael) Bisping or (Georges) St-Pierre.’ But he’s not a money fighter. He couldn’t sell 100,000 pay-per-view buys if his life depended on it, so it doesn’t make sense to give that guy a money fighter. He’s always pulling this victim card, ‘Oh, everybody’s racist because they don’t want to watch me fight.’ Like, no one wants to watch you fight because you just back up and you don’t do anything in fights. So I’m just sick of him playing the victim, and I just want to expose him. I hope the UFC gives me the opportunity very soon.”
Regardless, despite his desire to prove the truth of his words in a potential matchup against Woodley, Covington is unworried that his focus may be resting elsewhere ahead of the biggest fight of his life at UFC Sao Paulo.
“I’m just thinking about destroying Demian Maia and sending him to the retirement home,” Covington said. “Luckily we’re in Sao Paulo, Brazil, so it won’t be too far for him to get stretchered off to. But I don’t think I have to perform — I just have to do what I always do, and that’s win. I’m a winner. I’m a proven winner, look at my track record. So I think when I finish Demian Maia, there will be no (more) clear evidence (needed) that I am the champ and I will get the next title shot.”