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Hot Tweets: Colby Covington’s tall tales and the best possible fight card for the UFC in 2020

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC 245 goes down tonight, and while much of the talk this week has been centered around the three title fights (and the two other phenomenal bouts on the main card), perhaps the biggest story of the week was Colby Covington saying that the UFC had planned on cutting him, win or lose, after his fight with Dong Hyun Kim and that the only thing that saved his job was his now infamous “filthy animals” promo. It’s a tall tale and one that bears discussion so let’s talk about it, as well as what’s next for the champions after UFC 245.

Colby Covington pulling back the curtain on his “act”.

Not at all, largely because I don’t believe a word of what he’s saying is true.

Whatever he wants to tell you, Colby Covington was not about to get cut after he fought Demian Maia. He was 7-1 in the UFC and they booked him against a guy coming off a title fight. That’s now how the UFC cuts people, especially not ones who don’t make any noise.

Dana White is a simple man. If you aren’t a draw, he’s not going to care about you but he’s not going to hate you for being unloved. However, if you aren’t a star and are vocal about how bad the UFC is, or wanting to unionize fighters, or wanting more money, he’s going to dislike you and then, yes, he’ll find the pretense to cut you. Colby was never an outspoken opponent of Dana and thus, was at zero risk of being cut. However, he was also at zero chance of making any money with the company too and that’s why Colby adopted his dollar store Tito routine. Like Dana, Covington is a simple man. He saw that he wasn’t getting paid and, because he lacks creativity and imagination, just stole a persona to put on that, at the very least would get his name in headlines. Does it make him a poser and a square? Yes. But it also has gotten him title shots and made him substantially more money. He will never be a big star because Colby is fundamentally uncool and so “Chaos” will always feel be lame but he can be known and in MMA, that’s better than most.

The reason Colby started repeating that story about UFC Sao Paulo is because, like all try hards he’s trying to making himself seem cooler than he is. He’s attempting to reconstruct the narrative that he was the underdog, that life dealt him a shit hand, and through his own guile and ingenuity, he rose above it. This is, of course, nonsense but it’s certainly a more relatable story than the truth and maybe softens the blow for some people who find his schtick too unpalatable at times. “Well, I didn’t like that thing he said but I get it, he’s doing it to provide for his family.”

Now, after what was written above, I imagine the few Colby stans out there will break out the pitchforks, so let me extend an olive branch: I have no problem with what Colby is doing, and in a few instances I think he’s actually been very smart. Again, he’s not cool nor clever so when he tries to talk trash - especially off the cuff - he mostly comes off like a loser. But becoming one of the most outspokenly MAGA athletes in the country is a smart turn and has ingratiated him with power structures that would normally not give him a first glance, much less a second one. Publicly beefing with Dana White (even if he is quietly showing belly behind the scenes) is smart, considering Dana is the biggest star in the company other than Conor and Joe Rogan. And relentlessly being annoying has the top contenders in the division all happy to fight him, even though he’s low key maybe the best fighter in the division.

Colby Covington took a look at his circumstances, realized he didn’t like how things were, and changed them for the better. Frankly, there are not many people in MMA who have ever really done that and it deserves some level of respect. But we don’t have to pretend he’s a genius for doing so or believe any of his self-aggrandizing nonsense.

A continuation

Going back to my previous answer, no, because that’s not really why he did it. In fact, if Colby wins the welterweight title, he’s going to ratchet his entire persona up another 10 levels.

If Colby beats Usman, his next opponent is already a given: Jorge Masvidal has not only risen to be one of the biggest stars in the sport over the last year, but the have a natural rivalry and a backstory that the UFC can promote the hell out of. In fact, if Colby beats Usman, I’d bet a fair sum that him vs. Masvidal is the headliner for this year’s International Fight Week card. And so, with the biggest event of his life ahead of him, there’s a zero percent chance Colby abandons the persona that got him there. He’s not Jon Jones. He’s not going to try and be the nice guy that Nike wants to sponsor. Colby is going to double down on everything he’s said, and honestly, it’s tough to blame him.

The other title fights at UFC 245, and their fallout.

If Amanda Nunes gets past Germaine de Randamie on Saturday, it’s starting to seem like a boxing match with Claressa Shields might be the most likely thing.

Now, Nunes has said she hopes to defend her featherweight title next, but the problem there is that there’s no one to defend against. It’s a mostly not real division and there’s not an obvious contender there, or at least not one anyone will care about. At bantamweight, Nunes could at least fight Ketlen Vieira but again, that’s fairly underwhelming and the UFC might want to give Vieira a showcase bout to remind people she exists. So given that, the rumors of discussions with Shields might actually be more than rumors. Dana has been trying to get into the boxing business forever and though Conor McGregor was far too big of a star in his own right for Dana to do more than skim some off of, with Nunes he might be able to actually get Zuffa Boxing moving.

As for Max Holloway, it might well be a move back up to lightweight. Sure, Zabit Magomedsharipov probably deserves a crack at the title, but there aren’t too many people clamoring for it because it feels like that fight is a layup for Max. And the only other featherweight that might make sense is Chan Sung Jung if he beats Frankie Edgar - but that’s a big if. Conversely, there are numerous interesting fights for Max at lightweight, not the least of which might be stepping in on short notice to replace either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson when their fight inevitably falls through next year.

However, both Nunes and Holloway are by no means guarantees at UFC 245. De Randamie has looked much improved over the last few years and if she can force Nunes into a striking bout, she actually has a good shot at the upset. Meanwhile, Alexander Volkanovski is quite possibly the most dangerous stylistic matchup for Max at 145 right now. I’m excited to see how both fights play out.

A brief lightning round

Well first off, it isn’t an immediate rematch since both Conor and Khabib will have had fight in between. And secondly, it makes tons of sense if you’re the UFC and your primary motivator is money. Khabib vs. Conor II will outsell Khabib vs. Gaethje by about 2 million PPV buys so yeah, they’re gonna go ahead and do that if they can. Gaethje can fight the winner of Paul Felder-Dan Hooker in the meantime and then get next. (I agree it sucks though.)

And if I had wheels, I’d be a wagon. Daniel Cormier was nominally winning the battles, and almost entirely losing the war. The head kick that ended the bout was not a stand alone event that ruined Cormier, it was the culmination of Jones’ strategy of catching DC coming in, working the body to slow him down and lower his guard, and then to take over as DC faded. It worked brilliantly and Jon being gassed up made little if any difference. Win or lose against Stipe, I think DC is definitely done. We’re never getting Jon-DC III and frankly, we don’t need to. We conclusively know who wins that fight.

Because, there’s levels to the sh*t.

By my estimation, MMA has the lowest barrier of entry of all sports for someone to be a “professional” at it. Seriously, there’s almost none. You, dear reader, can go be a pro fighter tomorrow if you so chose whereas there’s almost no possible way I could ever find someone to pay me money to say, play basketball. Add in the fact that it takes a lot less to get into the UFC today than it used to and there’s an outside chance that you, dear reader, if you had any athleticism to you at all, could scrape together 5-6 wins over low level competition and even get a fight in the UFC. So given all that, and the still relative newness of the sport, the base level of fighting in the UFC will likely stick to the same structures: good grapplers win more often than not, forward pressure is better than counter-fighting, cardio is king.

But at the elite levels, the best in the world are innovating new techniques and adapting techniques from other disciplines to fit into the growing vocabulary of MMA. So the TL/DR is good fighters are awesome and innovative and the sheer number of fighters in the UFC etc... means that a large majority are just doing the same five things.

2020’s best fight card

One of the important things for making a dream fight card is understanding what makes a good fight card in the first place. Most people will just pick the five title fights they most want to see and then go with that. Except a five title fight card would be four hours long and absolutely miserable. Instead, you want to have a couple of title fights to cap the evening and three other fights to build to a majestic crescendo (three title fights can work but, like may happen tonight, it also can feel like too much and often leaves one title fight feeling “less than”).

So given that, I spend a good deal of time on this and think I came up with a nearly perfect fight card:

Main Event: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson

Co-Main Event: Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

3. Conor McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje

4. Robbie Lawler vs. Anderson Silva

5. Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Chan Sung Jung

Opening the card with Zabit vs. Korean Zombie means the main card is starting out absolutely f*cking bananas. Immediately gets everyone feeling alive. Lawler vs. Silva has been a pet fight I’ve been calling for for years and would fit perfectly as a bit of a palate cleanser. The fight would still be captivating because of the legendary fighters involved but it wouldn’t be a full blown war like ZM-KZ and you need to let everyone breath before the most exciting fight of all time goes down - Conor vs. Gaethje. If those two ever fought, I’d mortgage my house betting that it is Fight of the Year.

Then you get to the title fights. Covington-Masvidal, like Lawler-Silva, lets the audience recharge a bit while still seeing a fantastic bout, all leading into the best fight in the history of MMA, on paper. It’s a perfect fight card. Plus, all of these fighters exist in the neighborhood of the BMF range so, the pre-fight presser would be very active between parties, not just between opponents. Conor would be going hard at Khabib while Gaethje desperately tried to keep jumping in there, Ferguson would be all Weird Tony and talk about Ninja Turtles or something, Khabib would be guaranteed to give us at least a couple tremendous one liners like “This guy number one bullsh*t”, and Robbie would probably fall asleep while Anderson tried to make jokes. It would be a tremendous media blitz that would be as enjoyable as the fight card itself.

Obviously, the big hitch here is Conor fighting outside the main event but since I was allowed to set aside all business reasons, that’s what I did and I think, from a viewing experience, this is the best card the UFC could possibly offer fans in 2020.

Thanks for reading this week and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.

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