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Colby Covington explains how ‘hostage’ negotiations kept him from fighting Kamaru Usman at UFC 244

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Colby Covington was ready to fight Kamaru Usman at UFC 244 in New York until negotiations broke down over the past week.

That’s the word from the former interim welterweight champion, who confirms that he had verbally agreed to face Usman on the upcoming card in November until the UFC came at him with an unreasonable offer financially that he just couldn’t accept.

“What happened exactly was the UFC came to me and offered me a basic challenger’s rate,” Covington explained when speaking to MMA Fighting on Monday. “I said no, I’m not challenging. I’m champion. I’ve never lost, I just defended my title. I brought in the Trumps. I got a tweet from [Donald] Trump, that’s like $3.5 million in marketing. If you break down the analytics of it, in itself, just to promote their show.

“I’ve put my life on the line for this company. Went to Brazil, said outlandish things where people literally wanted to kill me and I had gangs in favelas coming after me and they still want to come at me with this basic challenger, entry fee type money? I’m standing up for what’s right.”

According to Covington, the UFC made an initial offer to take the fight with Usman but rather than trying to come to an agreement on money, he was essentially told that it was a take it or leave it negotiation.

“They didn’t give me a negotiation. They said ‘take this or we’ll just move onto someone else’. That’s not negotiating. That’s bad business and if that’s how they want to do business, that’s their problem. That’s not my problem,” Covington said.

“They came with those hostage negotiations. They come and say ‘take this offer or we’ll just move onto the next person’. That’s not how negotiating works. I read ‘Art of the Deal’ from Donald Trump. I know how to work a deal and how deals work. They’re not going to take advantage of me and try to put me in a hostage position where they don’t give me any say or any room to negotiate. That’s not fair and it’s not right.”

While no numbers were revealed, Covington confirmed that the offer made to him to fight Usman was for less money than he made to face Robbie Lawler in a non-title bout back in August.

“That is accurate. It’s crazy, it’s corrupt and it’s not right,” Covington revealed. “The fighters need to learn a piece of advice from me and learn from my situation that you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and what you earn more importantly. The company’s killing it. 30 percent growth last quarter, making billions, the ESPN deal, sponsor revenue, they’re absolutely killing it and they’re going to go public soon and they don’t want to pay the fighters. I’m one of one.

“No one has done what I’ve done. No one has broke the record for most strikes thrown in a fight. No one went to the White House. No one’s hung out with the Trumps in Trump Tower. I’ve done things that no one has ever done before and look how the UFC treats me. How do you think they’re going to treat other guys who haven’t even done half of what I’ve done?”

Beyond his own negotiations, Covington claims that Usman never agreed to the date, location or money offered either so the onus wasn’t all on him for the fight not happening as scheduled.

“I know how the events went down and when I come out, I bring truth and facts,” Covington said. “I don’t care what any MMA journalist says, every time I talk, I always come out with the truth and facts. Truth is a force of nature just like the President says. What happened was I verbally agreed to fight Usman in New York, they didn’t tell me any numbers. They just told me this is the fight to make. This is the fight we’re going to make, are you guys on board? I said absolutely but they couldn’t get Usman to agree.

“Then they start talking numbers and they’re giving me basic challenger numbers but they need to realize they’re not going to get the ‘A’ side done before they get the ‘B’ side done. I’m the ‘A’ side so let’s get these numbers right but the whole time, Usman hadn’t even accepted the fight. He’s turning it down. He didn’t want to fight anybody.”

That’s when the UFC started exploring other options like offering the title fight to Covington’s teammate Jorge Masvidal, who had verbally accepted the matchup before the promotion ultimately moved to put him against Nate Diaz instead.

“They went from me to Jorge [Masvidal] to someone else and he turned all of them down. The issue is not me. I want to fight, I’m ready to fight. I’m healthy to fight,” Covington said. “It does bother me that they’ll go to a jobber and a journeyman like Jorge Masvidal and he’s so desperate and he’s so broke right now that he’s going to take any offer the UFC throws at him. He’ll take this basic challenger fee because let’s be honest, he’s 2-2 in his last four fights, he’s 5-5 in his last 10, so he’s going to take anything the UFC gives him.

“The UFC used Jorge Masvidal as a pawn and we all know I’m playing chess not checkers. They want to use Jorge as a little pawn to fight for the JMF — the journeyman mother-effing title against another scrub and jobber in Nate Diaz, who has a 50/50 record, 1-1 in the last three years, he’s a Stockton soy boy. They just used those guys as pawns against me and Usman.”

As of now no talks are ongoing for Covington to face Usman any time soon but he’s hopeful that a deal can be reached so the welterweight title can go up for grabs before the end of 2019.

“I hope so. I don’t know. I feel like we were very close and negotiations were very close to being signed but they didn’t want to meet in the middle. They didn’t want to be fair and bring a reasonable price to me,” Covington said.

“I’m not asking for anything unfair. I’m just asking for something reasonable for the work I put in. I’m not asking for anything unreasonable. I’m just asking for what I’ve earned and what I deserve.”

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