“Chaos” appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday and he made it clear that an oft-discussed grudge match with Woodley, a former teammate and the current UFC welterweight champion, is first and foremost in his mind. Since Covington defeated Rafael dos Anjos for an interim title in June, the assumption has been that the Covington-Woodley rivalry would soon come to a head. But injuries to both men and the emergence of other contenders has left some doubt as to when or if their fight will become official.
UFC 233, set to take place in Anaheim, Calif. on Jan. 26, is currently without a main event after a previously scheduled flyweight championship bout between Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was moved to the headlining spot of the promotion’s ESPN+ debut in Brooklyn on Jan. 19. When asked if he was interested in possibly taking that main event spot opposite Woodley, Covington told host Luke Thomas that he’s all for it.
“As far as I’m concerned, yeah it is on the table,” Covington said of UFC 233. “I would fight Tyron Woodley there, but I can’t speak the same for him. I know we don’t agree on a lot but we do agree on one thing: we are fighting each other next. He wants to punch me in the face, but that’s not gonna happen. These moves right here, he can’t punch me in the face, he’s not going to be able to touch me. That’s what it is.”
Covington described himself as being “100 percent healthy” after recently dealing with sinus surgery and a ligament tear in his foot. While he’d prefer to get a proper training camp as opposed to a truncated one given that UFC 233 takes place in just under seven weeks, the 30-year-old reiterated that he will fight Woodley in Anaheim if that’s what the UFC wants.
Even given his own setbacks, Covington put the onus on Woodley for their expected clash never being officially booked. Covington echoed the sentiments of UFC president Dana White in claiming that Woodley is not as active as he could be given his championship status.
“What’s going on at welterweight is the same thing that’s been going on for the last year or two,” Covington said. “I’ve been waiting for the UFC to send me a contract with Tyron Woodley’s name on it and he’s not signing the contract. He’s been kind of ducking and waiting. He’s trying to pick his spots. He’s trying to go to TMZ and still have that title as champion, so he’s just trying to get these cameos over in Hollywood. He doesn’t want to fight, he’s not here to make the welterweight division great again like myself. That’s what’s going on, I’m waiting for him. We’re fighting next, I don’t care what it is.
“This fight has built itself the last two years — let me stop. I built this fight for the last two years. This fight sells itself, it’s the next fight, it doesn’t matter if me and Tyron Woodley fight in the UFC or we fight in a CVS, I’m fighting Tyron Woodley next.”
As for why he thinks Woodley hasn’t agreed to fight him yet, Covington accused the champion of engaging in gamesmanship as far as selecting his opponents and when to fight them.
“I don’t side with anybody, but I do know that Tyron Woodley doesn’t fight enough because after I fought, he hadn’t fought in a year, 13 months, that’s why they made the real belt, America’s belt,” Covington said. “Then all of a sudden he wants to fight 14 months later, which is two months after my fight and he knew I had to get surgery so he was trying to get me when I wasn’t healthy.
“He’s a pick-and-chooser. He wants to pick times, a lot of the fights that he’s fought in the past, Demian Maia, he got him on four weeks, five weeks training camp. He made him come in unhealthy. He’s a strategic player.”
Covington is currently riding a six-fight win streak, which puts him in a tie for the best current UFC run at welterweight behind only Santiago Ponzinibbio (7) and Kamaru Usman (9). Both of those men have made a strong argument to be considered for a title bout in the near future, and Usman has called out Covington to fight and establish a clear-cut challenger for Woodley as the division awaits his next move.
But Covington was quick to squash any talk of signing on for anyone but Woodley for now.
“I’m waiting on Tyron,” Covington said. “He’s on borrowed time. He’s the only person I’m fighting. I’m young, the best years are ahead of me. He’s old, he’s at the end of his career. I’m just getting started. I’ve just barely begun this journey, so as long as it takes to fight Tyron Woodley, we have unfinished business.”