Unbeaten at 170 pounds, there’s no turning back for Michael Chiesa.
The former lightweight picked up the biggest win of his career on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Raleigh, taking home a unanimous decision over top welterweight contender and former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos. With the victory, “Maverick” improved to 3-0 since moving up from 155 pounds.
Post-fight, Chiesa called out former interim champion Colby Covington, and he elaborated on that decision while speaking to the media backstage.
“I just beat the No. 5-ranked guy in the world, and I always say the most important time to ask for a fight is after you win,” Chiesa said. “You’ve got to capitalize. I’m not out to engage in some verbal pissing match with [Covington]; I respect his skills and he’s super tough. I’m just trying to get to a world title, and I think that’s the fight that makes the most sense when you look at the top-five. I said before the fight, I beat Rafael dos Anjos; I’m not fighting anybody that’s ranked less than five. I’m taking his spot and just looking at the landscape of the division, that’s the fight that makes sense.
“I want to be tested, I want to fight the best, so Colby it is.”
Chiesa has never been shy to throw out a name following a victory, and he immediately left the cage after mentioning that he wanted to fight Covington. According to Chiesa, the call-out only occurred to him and his team after watching Covington’s fight with Kamaru Usman at UFC 245, and seeing how the top of the welterweight division shook out in the aftermath of Usman’s win.
“I kind of waited to see how [UFC] 245 ended and just kind of wanted to see what happened with Tyron and Leon and everybody,” Chiesa said. “But I think it’s a fight that makes sense, and I wouldn’t go ask for some outlandish matchup. Anytime I’ve won a fight and asked for an opponent, I’ve usually gotten it, and that’s because it’s all well thought-out. I just don’t throw things against the wall that aren’t gonna stick. I just think it’s a fight that makes sense, I think it’s a fight I could get, so we’ll see what happens.”
Not only did Chiesa take dos Anjos’s spot in the contenders’ rankings, he feels his gritty performance proved that he belongs to be mentioned among the welterweight division’s elite names and he vowed to be the No. 1 contender by the end of the year. Covington and Usman both defeated dos Anjos on their way up the rankings and Chiesa believes he passed the same test with flying colors.
He thinks Covington will be an even greater challenge, which is exactly why he has to find out what will happen if they meet in the Octagon.
“I just showed that I’m tough,” Chiesa said. “I just went out there – look at the guys who have beat ‘RDA.’ Only the best guys have beat him. So I’d like to think that I’m gonna join the echelon of those fighters in that same aspect. I’m gonna become a champion. I proved that tonight. I went out and beat a championship-calibre fighter, and that’s it. I want to be great, I want to fight the best guys, I want to test myself, I want see what my limits are. I don’t think a lot of guys in this sport really have that mentality. I’m not out to find easy fights.
“Colby Covington’s a nightmare matchup for me, but I’m ready to walk through the fire. I want to fight the best guys.”