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Walt Harris: Colby Covington ‘alienated a large percentage’ of American Top Team

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

NEW YORK — Walt Harris likes Colby Covington and he says the two are cool. The UFC heavyweight just thinks Covington took things maybe a step too far last weekend in Brazil.

Covington, after beating Demian Maia for his biggest career victory to date, ripped into the UFC Sao Paulo crowd, saying Brazil is a “dump,” and the fans in attendance were “filthy animals.” The remarks have brought a backlash, including from those involved with his American Top Team gym. Former head coach Ricardo Liborio, Antonio Silva and Amanda Nunes have all taken to social media to denounce Covington’s comments.

Harris, who meets Mark Godbeer at UFC 217 on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, is a longtime ATT member, though he has been training recently in Alabama. He wasn’t a huge fan of what Covington said.

“Honestly, man, Colby is my boy, but I feel like he alienated a large percentage of the gym, a large percentage of the coaches,” Harris told MMA Fighting. “It’s something I wouldn’t have done. You knew going into Brazil what it was gonna be like. I feel like as a fighter, as a professional athlete, you have a standard you have to set. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Don’t stoop to the level of some people who are obviously trying to get in your head to help their country.”

What Harris really didn’t appreciate was Covington’s shots at Liborio. After Liborio spoke out against Covington’s post-fight speech in Brazil, Covington blasted the former ATT head man in an interview with Bloody Elbow. Covington called Liborio a “conman,” a “scumbag” and a “piece of shit.”

“[Liborio] means a lot to me,” Harris said. “That kind of bugged me a little bit. Ricardo has done a lot for me in my career, he’s helped me a lot. So for me to hear him speak about him in that light, it was bad, man. He basically just called him a bunch of names. It’s bad, man. He set a lot of guys off.”

UFC welterweight veteran Ben Saunders, too, took umbrage with Covington’s disparaging remarks about Liborio, who helped found American Top Team with Dan Lambert and the Silveira brothes, Conan and Marcus.

For the record my issues with Colby is not about his comments towards Brazil though awful, he claims what he said was a Promo and then he ran for his life, I get it. In his eyes it was just business and a game he is playing, nothing more, or so he claims. I guess I understand that with the way things have been going these days, Conor made everyone think that you have to sell fights the way he does, and to get attention, so again I understand what Colby was trying to do. Even if he is terrible at it. He does have people talking and is going the heel approach. But to come out and try and defame Ricardo Liborio, the man that basically created the gym Colby trains out of , as Dan Lambert alone would not have been able to form ATT without Libo, or at least in the same time frame and era in which ATT was formed. None the less if your gonna talk shit and try to defame one of my mentors growing up and throughout my career, and attack a Legend in the sport who also happens to be the man that gave me my black belt, I ain't about that. He can make a formal apology to Libo and his family for the comments he made, as those comments may also have been made to just be a dumb game of words Colby is playing to keep his WWE style persona intact. If he doesn't really mean the comments then he can take them back. As mistakes happen. But if he wants to stand by his statements well then luckily enough for me he fights in the same organization and same weight class as me. I am just letting it be known if the opportunity arises that I would jump on this fight in a heart beat. As styles make fights and my style would smash Colby's fucking face in and I would finger paint with his blood. Those who actually know me, and or been following my career closely know my skill set and know this is very possible. If you are not directly connected, I don't expect you to understand. My comments are not some lame ass Promo. I am truly offended by what he said about someone I respect. I am old school and a true Martial artist, who believes in respect, honor, and loyalty. This isn't about stupid social media feuds, and trying to sell a fight. I hate bullies and ignorant people with no remorse.

A post shared by Ben Saunders (@bensaundersmma) on

Harris, 34, said he still wishes Covington well, but he believes he went “a little too far” in trying to play this pro-wrestling heel persona.

“I just want him to keep winning, keep doing his thing, because I believe in karma,” Harris said. “I believe every dog has their day and you can’t go throwing people under the bus for the sake of trying to set yourself on a higher plateau. I feel like he’s doing well right now. Being the heel is cool — you need a heel — but there’s a level of, ‘OK, I’m being heel and I’m just going a little too far.’ I feel like he just went a little too far.”

As for Harris, who stepped in on just hours notice to fight Fabricio Werdum last month at UFC 216, he said he doesn’t feel the need to talk trash to get himself over with the fans, although in this era of the UFC that is very much encouraged.

“I’ve been told, you should do this and do that, but that’s not my character,” Harris said. “I’m not gonna compromise who I am on a day-to-day basis to appease a group of people who only see me at a certain point in time. I feel like my character and my morals mean more. I get the whole ‘be the heel’ if that’s who you are, that’s who you are. I feel like Conor [McGregor], that’s naturally his thing. You can’t mimic Conor. I’ve seen guys try to do it and doesn’t go over well. Michael Bisping, you can’t mimic Bisping. That’s why the fans grab it. When it’s authentic, that’s when they grab it. And if you try to force it on them, they know. They know who’s doing a little too much.”