The brash 31-year-old had a cageside seat for UFC 235’s welterweight title fight between Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman, in which Usman dominated Woodley en route to capturing the belt with a one-sided unanimous decision. With his bright red MAGA hat and interim strap in tow, Covington made himself an ever-present figure during the contest. And as the clock wound down on Usman’s victory, several members of the media noticed UFC president Dana White walk over to Covington and have a discussion with the controversial welterweight.
So what did White say?
“There was a lot of ruckus going on over there in his area,” the UFC president explained at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “He almost got into it with mama Woodley at one point and everything else. That was like the third time I’d gone over to him that night.
“So I just told him, ‘Listen, you’re going to get this title shot. Don’t f*ck this up. Just relax. You and all your guys relax. If anything goes down, let our people handle it, and we’re going to take you in the back in a little while here and do some interviews.’ That’s all I said to him.”
When asked to clarify if that meant Covington is officially the next challenger for Usman’s newly captured welterweight title, White was blunt.
“Yeah,” he said.
By all accounts, Covington was supposed to be the rightful challenger for Woodley’s title at UFC 235, considering he captured his interim welterweight strap with a June 2018 victory over Rafael dos Anjos.
But the UFC instead opted to go with Usman — and “The Nigerian Nightmare” repaid the promotion’s trust with a sensational performance over Woodley on Saturday night. Utilizing suffocating forward pressure and a surprisingly effective wrestling game, Usman dominated Woodley from pillar to post, and White admitted afterward that he was blown away by what he saw from the UFC’s newest welterweight titleholder.
“You guys were there at the press conference,” explained White. “Woodley said, ‘What are you going to do to me? I do everything better than you do.’ I told you guys after the RDA fight, I respect RDA a lot and I use him as a gauge for guys when they’re coming up, and he looked so good in that RDA fight. I knew after Colby turned down that fight, that I wanted to do the fight with Usman.
“What I loved about this fight [at UFC 235] and what I thought was going to make it a great fight is that I knew Usman would go after him. Normally, Woodley’s so fast with his hands and he’s such a good wrestler, that most guys can’t do both with him. Usman could do both. Usman could wrestle with him, but I didn’t expect Usman to go in and absolutely dominate him the entire time wherever he wanted to go. No, I didn’t see that coming.”