That’s a stark contrast from the previous champion, Tyron Woodley, who Covington verbal assaulted for months while pushing for a fight; the two previously had trained together at American Top Team in Florida, and Covington believed he would prevail.
While Covington has no problem lobbing insults Usman’s way, he admits it’s not the same vitriol that simmered to the surface every time Woodley’s name came up.
“I can’t say I have the same energy as I had towards Woodley,” Covington said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Because Woodley was such a fake guy, the way he treated me when I was always there to help him with training camps. He’s just a piece of sh*t.
“I remember the first time I saw Woodley at an event, he acted like he didn’t know me, and I’m like you know me. I was just beating your ass a couple of days ago in the gym, and now you want to no-sell me and act like you’re too big and you’re too famous for me now? That was a guy I really wanted to hurt.”
As far as Usman goes, Covington says this fight is more about a grudge he’s trying to settle for American Top Team owner Dan Lambert, who he claims wanted this fight to happen even more than he did.
“Usman’s just the next guy up,” Covington said. “The next guy up for me to defend my title against. This will be my second title defense. Dan Lambert wants this fight more than any fight in the history of American Top Team. Those are his famous words. Those are words that came out of the godfather, Dan Lambert’s mouth.
“This is the biggest fight in the history of the gym at American Top Team, just with Usman and all the guys from our gym that he’s beat. It’s a massive fight for the gym. For me, it’s just another fight. It’s an easy fight for me.”
If there was one aspect of the fight that got more personal for Covington, it was Usman’s claim earlier this year that he was “more American” than the former interim champion. His comments came in response to Covington’s outward support of President Donald Trump, a living embodiment of the “Make American Great Again” hat that he wears everywhere he goes.
“I’m an immigrant who came here, worked his tail off to get to where I am,” Usman said at the time. “I did everything right. I didn’t cheat anybody. I didn’t lie, I didn’t do any of the things that they’re trying to say immigrants do. I didn’t do any of that. I paid my dues, and I got what he wanted.
“I’m sitting up here, and he’s down here looking up at me, so I need to remind him, I’m more American than he is. I’m the one living the American dream.”
Covington took serious exception to Usman’s All-American declaration, mostly based around his issues with the way the reigning champion has touted his Nigerian heritage so much since winning the title back in March.
“The thing that pisses me off the most about ‘Marty Fakenewsman’ is saying that he’s more American than me,” Covington said. “How is he more American than me? My family has served in the Korean War, in the Vietnam War, my family has shed blood for that flag, for the red, white and blue of America. What has his family ever done for America beside serve in the Federal penitentiary?
“That’s why he got the name ‘Marty Fakenewsman’ because everything he says is all lies. He’s out here claiming to be the first Nigerian-born, African champion. He was born in Dallas. He went to college in Nebraska. He was wiping the mats at the Olympic training center in Colorado, and now he lives in Boca Raton (Fla.). There ain’t no Nigerian nightmares in Boca. The only things in Boca are early bird specials.”
Despite Covington’s claims, Usman actually was born in Nigeria. Usman’s family moved to the United States when he was a child, but regardless, the former interim champion has only stepped up his attacks in the days leading up to their fight tonight.
Considering all the bad blood between the two top-ranked welterweights outside the cage, it’s difficult to circle back to the fight itself, but Covington has done his homework when it comes to Usman as a fighter.
He knows exactly what to expect when they clash on Saturday night, although Covington is quick to point out that he’s faced and defeated better fighters than Usman already.
“He’s not at the same level,” Covington said. “He was being choked out by a guy named Jose Caceres, who I completely mopped the mats with in Miami. You look at guy like Robbie Lawler, who I fought in my last fight. I landed the most strikes in the history of the UFC on Robbie’s face, and that’s a guy I like. That guy presents way more problems than Marty Fakenewsman.
“Marty doesn’t have any punching power. He doesn’t have one-punch KO power. He’s KO’d maybe one guy in 16 fights, and that guy was a jobber. We’re talking about a UFC legend. The most dangerous, feared guy in the history of the welterweight division in Robbie Lawler.”
For all those reasons, Covington fully expects to walk out with the UFC welterweight title around his waist and from the sound of things, he isn’t expecting a hard night of work ahead of him.
“I don’t see ‘Marty Fakenewsman’ as my toughest challenge,” Covington stated. “I just see him as a little b*tch that’s going to get tuned up on Dec. 14. Only on pay-per-view.”