Instead, Usman will fight Emil Meek in a rescheduled bout at UFC St. Louis. And according the up-and-coming welterweight contender, that’s because the controversial Covington ran from a bout both Usman and the UFC wanted to make.
“We were offered Colby Covington, he said no,” Usman said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Right away he said, ‘No, I don’t want anything to do with that guy.’”
According to Usman, the UFC made two more attempts at putting the bout together, and each time, Covington turned it down.
“They tried to make fight again two weeks later,” Usman said. “Then something transpired, I don’t know what it was, but they tried to make fight again, and Colby said no, absolutely not. Then for the third time they offered it, this was supposed to be my main event, Jan. 14, my main event. Obviously you see why it took so long get a headliner for that card. It was supposed to be me and Colby to headline that card. But he turned it down.”
Covington, an undeniably talented fighter, only started getting noticed once he started making outrageous comments online and at his fights — most notably his trolling of Brazilians in the run-up to and after his win over Demian Maia in Sao Paulo.
But Usman noted that there’s been a pattern to Covington’s behavior: Usman believes Covington is deliberately targeting older fighters who are on their way down to build his name, and doesn’t want any part of another fighter in his prime.
“Colby only wants to go after the guys he feels that are old and have an athletic advantage and cardio advantage to maybe try to push them into deep waters,” Usman said. “He knows that plays no part with me. You can’t out-wrestle me, you can’t out-strike me, you don’t have more power than me. Basically he sees this, he’s so afraid to where he was running to nobody but all the older guys who are on their way down. That’s all they want.”
When asked straight up if he believes Covington is racist, Usman said no. But while he doesn’t believe Covington actually has hate in his heart, the Nigerian immigrant who is now based out of Delray Beach, Fla., does believe that a potential fight between himself and Covington represents something larger than a basic athletic contest.
“I don’t think he’s racist,” Usman said. “But I’m going to just gonna lay it out for you. When I eventually get my hands on Covington, its more than just a fight, it symbolizes so many other things. It symbolizes the attitude toward immigrants in this country, and around the world. For me, it symbolizes all that. Because that’s how, a lot of Americans kind of feel like that for some odd reason. Immigrants just, for some reason, through some of their eyes, they’re never good enough. They don’t do anything, they’re not good enough. You can’t really feel as comfortable. And that’s what Colby is doing. He’s trying to play on that role.”
Usman does give Covington credit, to a degree, for finding an angle that gets the fans to talk about him.
“He’s actually getting people to care about him,” Usman said. “Before that, no one cared about him. Absolutely nothing. He would win fight after fight, but no one cared. But now that he actually showed his true colors, people are starting to care about him. So the fight symbolizes more than just me going in there and stomping his ass. It’s going to be different.”
So Usman is left with his fight with Meek. The bout was originally scheduled for UFC 219, but was pushed back due to visa issues on the part of the Norweigian. After much speculation, the bout ultimately landed on the St. Louis card.
Usman, who is 6-0 in the UFC, admits he had trouble getting up for the Meek fight, particularly. But he’s also gotten heavy pushback online from Meek’s fans, and he says that turned into all the motivation he needed.
“I get so much hate tweets from them, ‘You’re ducking, you’re scared of him,’” Usman said. “Each and every day. Those guys are basically fuel to fire to where it got to my spirit. Okay, I can get up for this now. This guy wants to talk, I will go in there and spank him like I do to each and every one my opponents. We can make this happen He talked himself into it, to where I’m up now and I will take care of him on Jan. 13. After that, Colby Covington, you can run, but you can’t hide.”