Colby Covington said a lot of things about Demian Maia and Maia’s home country of Brazil in the lead-up to UFC Sao Paulo. That talk only amplified after Covington defeated Maia via unanimous decision on Saturday night, as Covington erupted and called the Brazilian fans “filthy animals” in a fiery post-fight interview, much to the disgust of the thousands packing the Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
But while Maia wasn’t a fan of Covington’s actions, he also wasn’t bothered by them, because according to him, Covington’s words were much different behind-the-scenes.
“What he said to me was, since the beginning, during the week, he said he respected me a lot and he was promoting the fight, and that was his way of promoting,” Maia said Saturday at the UFC Sao Paulo post-fight press conference.
“He told me that I’m a legend and that he admires me, and he only does [his trash talking] for promoting. Obviously, it’s not my style. I don’t like that style, but I don’t judge him. I think he’s free to do whatever he wants to promote. What matters is that he was respectful, he was correct to come and talk to me, so there’s no problem.”
After specifically calling Maia out for UFC Sao Paulo, Covington became only the fourth man in 14 attempts to defeat the 39-year-old Brazilian since Maia dropped down to the welterweight division in 2012. Covington out-struck Maia by a margin of 121-59 while also successfully defending all 13 of Maia’s takedown attempts en route to a bloody decision win.
As it stands, Covington’s trash-talking methods appear to be working. Not only did they land the American his fight against Maia, but Covington’s post-fight callout of UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley resulted in Woodley unleashing a lengthy, irate series of tweets in response to Covington on Saturday night.
But that being said, Maia has been around the fight game for a long time — long enough to have competed through the rise and fall of Chael Sonnen in the UFC — and Maia cautioned that Covington may want to be careful to not take things too far.
“I think sometimes the fighters aren’t very clear on things, and even myself, I’m a fighter, a lot of fighters make mistakes about working their image and how they market themselves,” Maia said. “I think there’s a way of promoting yourself like (Conor) McGregor with intelligence, like Sonnen used to do. But I think it’s a fine line between destroying your image or building your image in the long run. I think people are thinking short-term.
“And besides that, McGregor’s style is risky because, as long as you’re winning, it’s fine. When you lose, you’re going to be remembered. It’s like Sonnen. He was a very tough fighter. He almost beat Anderson (Silva) at his height. And I see a lot of friends of mine who don’t follow fighting, and they used to say, ‘Sonnen just talks and he’s not that good,’ because he created that image and he talked a lot. Sonnen, to me, he’s a great athlete, but he created that image so much for himself that people don’t think he’s that good. They just think he talks. So I think it’s a risk you run when you do that.”