As MMA Fighting confirmed, the highly anticipated welterweight matchup between Covington and Woodley is targeted on Sept. 19, which originally was scheduled as UFC 253 but may be rebranded.
While verbal agreements are in place for the Woodley fight, Covington told What the Heck it’s too early to declare the fight done.
“As America’s champ, as the people’s champ, as Donald Trump’s favorite fighter, there’s a thing that Donald Trump patented: that’s ‘promises made, promises kept,” he said. “So I don’t want to come on here and lie to you and say it’s gonna be a for sure thing, because I don’t know. I don’t know if Tyron Woodley’s gonna show up. I was willing to fight him on four days’ notice the last time, so I’m always ready to show up and fight him.
“I gave him a verbal agreement to fight him Aug. 22, and he didn’t want to show up,” Covington continued. “Apparently, ‘low testosterone’ Woodley has to do some juice, he has to juice up to fight me. Supposedly now he’s given his verbal agreement for Sept. 19, but let’s be honest, there’s no way I can give you a guarantee, because there’s no contract in writing. The ink has not dried, so I hope it happens. I’m ready to go, but I can’t give you a definite answer that it will happen on Sept. 19.”
Covington looks to return to the octagon for the first time since a fifth-round TKO loss to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in the headliner of December’s UFC 245 event. “Chaos,” a former UFC interim champion, had entered the bout with an impressive seven-fight winning streak, which included victories over former champions Rafael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler.
A potential booking with his former American Top Team teammate has seemed inevitable for years. According to Covington, he isn’t the one that should be blamed for the fight not happening.
“This has been such a runaround to try and fight Tyron Woodley for the past four or five years,” Covington said. “The guy is making excuses, he’s getting elective surgeries, he needs more time for training camp, he’s doing this and that.
“You would think with all of the running and dodging he’s done from me that he would have this insane cardio. But no, he’s getting gassed out by school teachers on a gladiator reality show.”
While Covington isn’t allowing himself to get too exhilarated with the idea of taking on his rival at the moment, he does admit that the pairing coming together is closer than it has ever been.
“I’d say we are at a six or a seven, I think that’s an accurate assessment,” Covington said. “If we’re talking football terms, we’re at the 40-yard line, coming up on the 30-yard line. We’re getting close. We’re not inside the red zone yet. There’s still some terms that the UFC told me they were gonna do, but they haven’t sent me anything, and I haven’t seen a contract. Until I see that – I’ve agreed to fight, I want the fight.
“He needed some extra time to juice up and be the best he’s ever been, but it’s not gonna make a difference. I hope it gets put together and I hope he shows up. I’m not gonna give you a definite answer, or get excited until we are locked in that octagon.”
When it comes to those additional terms he was looking for from the UFC, the 32-year-old says it’s something that the promotion reacted positively to the requests.
“Little things they were going to accommodate me with,” Covington said. “Things like first class travel, some suites. I am raw American steel and twisted sex appeal, so I have to make sure my body and mind are feeling good on fight week. I’ve earned this right to be in this position as the main event fighter, and the fighter that’s drawing all the clout for this fight, and selling this fight.
“Just some little things that the UFC agreed upon, but they haven’t sent me a contract with those terms on their agreement, so I’m just waiting for that. But I’m easy. The UFC knows I’m easy and I like to fight. This is my passion. This is what I love to do, and it doesn’t matter if it’s on a week’s notice, a day’s notice, I’m always ready to go.”
Woodley is in unfamiliar territory, as he’s in the middle of a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his 25-fight professional career. “The Chosen One” captured the UFC’s welterweight title with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 in July 2016.
After fighting Stephen Thompson to a draw in his first title defense at UFC 205, Woodley successfully defended his belt with decision wins over Thompson at UFC 209 and Demian Maia at UFC 214, as well as a second-round submission win over Darren Till in the main event of UFC 228.
The 38-year-old Woodley lost the title via unanimous decision against Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March 2019, and returned 14-months later to face Gilbert Burns, dropping another unanimous decision in the main event of UFC on ESPN 9 in May.
With Woodley looking to avoid his third straight loss, combined with the animosity he has towards his foe, Covington expects Woodley to be at his very best should the fight come to fruition.
“This rivalry is beyond personal,” Covington said. “This is for bragging rights for the rest of our lives. There’s no doubt that fighting me he’s going to get the biggest adrenaline rush, biggest motivation, and inspiration to try and knock me out.
“This fight sells in so many different ways. We used to be teammates, we have the Republican/liberal angle, the hatred we genuinely have for each other, so I think we’re going to see the best Tyron Woodley we’ve ever seen in this fight.
“Speaking of his last two fights, those guys beat him on the judges’ scorecards. This fight ain’t going to the judges’ scorecards. I’m gonna leave no doubt that I am the best welterweight in the world. I’m gonna add another champion to my resume, my long list and resume that I already have and I’m gonna finish him, I promise you that. He will get left unconscious inside that octagon.”
Covington admits that despite the result, his hatred for Woodley will go beyond Sept. 19, or whenever it is they finally meet in the cage. For now, he has a message for his potential opponent to make help ensure the fight happens.
“Just show up, man,” Covington said. “We know you’re clout chasing on the internet right now. We know you’re looking for a couple of likes, a couple of extra followers because your career is about to be dead after you meet up with me. Show up, man. You were supposed to show up Aug. 22 and you didn’t want to do that. You needed a little more time. Sept. 19, you called your shot.
“Come get it, boy. It’s been brewing for many, many years. Come see me, motherf*cker. We’ll find out who the best is, and after I’m done with you, you’re not going to be recognizable to your family, and we know you’re just showing up for that paycheck to pay all those mouths you’ve gotta feed because we know you have kids with multiple wives and multiple women. Just show up.”
Should pen hit paper on a pair of contracts, posters be created, and the two heated rivals finally get face-to-face in the cage to begin a potential 25-minutes of action, a win will not be enough to satisfy Covington.
“If Tyron Woodley does not leave the octagon Sept. 19—live on ESPN—on a stretcher, then I didn’t do my job.”
To see the full interview, watch the interview above, or check out this week’s episode of What the Heck, which debuts on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.