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Kamaru Usman to Colby Covington: The referee had to ‘protect you from yourself so you can live to fight another day’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kamaru Usman has no problem facing Colby Covington again one day in the future but he definitely disagrees that their first fight somehow ended with a cloud of controversy hanging overhead.

The reigning welterweight champion earned a fifth-round TKO after he blasted Covington with a combination that put him down on the canvas and left latching onto a leg trying to scramble for a takedown. Usman followed that up with a barrage of rapid-fire punches that forced referee Marc Goddard intervene to stop the contest.

Covington protested afterwards and then exploded on Goddard for the stoppage during one of his first interviews following the event.

“I went out there and I beat up ‘Marty Fakenewsman’ for 24 minutes until the ref had to stop the fight on a fake stoppage – a bullsh*t stoppage,” Covington told MMA Fighting. “[A stoppage] where I was completely coherent and still in the fight, and [Goddard] just blatantly stopped the fight, after there was a foul, too.

“He’s hitting me in the back of the head four times and he blatantly calls the fight, because he knows he doesn’t want it to go to the judges’ scorecards cause I could win.”

Usman vehemently disagrees with Covington’s assessment, especially when considering the amount of damage Covington had already endured over four-plus rounds in the fight.

“That’s the thing about me being rational and trying to see it from all sides, absolutely [it was a good stoppage],” Usman explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Because taking myself out of it as the fighter that won and also taking myself out of it looking at it from Colby’s perspective but looking at it from the referee’s perspective. I hit him with some big, big shots in there.

“Hitting him with the right hand that hurt him. That clearly hurt him. Hitting him with the left hand that hurt him. Hitting him with a series of punches against the cage that definitely hurt him and then the big right hand that just sat him down really bad. So he’s hurt really bad, he got up, I let him up trying to fight back up and then hit him with another shot that just dropped him. For a referee looking at all of that, at the end of the day, you’re sprawled out and I’m beating on the side of your head, the referee’s got to protect you from yourself sometimes.”

In Usman’s opinion, there was absolutely no controversy regarding the stoppage. Instead, he believes Covington might want to offer Goddard a thank you for sparing him from suffering any further damage that already included a fractured jaw.

“You can say it’s controversial but you have to see the referee just saw you take all those big shots in a row,” Usman said. “He has to be able to step in to protect you from yourself so you can live to fight another day.”

The only disappointment for Usman about the way the fight ended was that he didn’t get to do it in more dramatic fashion.

“The finish, all I could picture in my head was Francis Ngannou-Alistair Overeem finish or Dan Henderson-Michael Bisping,” Usman said. “That was all I had in my mind, that I wanted to cap that fight off with but I’ll take the finish anyway that I can get it.”

He might get another chance if Covington gets his wish after calling for an immediate rematch in the wake of his loss at UFC 245 this past December.

While all signs are pointing towards Usman facing “BMF” champion Jorge Masvidal in July, he’s open to running it back with Covington in the future.

“I hope so,” Usman responded when asked if he believes he’ll fight Covington again. “Because that was a fun fight. Not just myself but I think the media, the fans, everybody believed that was a fun fight.”