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Morning Report: Kamaru Usman praises Colby Covington ahead of rematch: ‘I would put him in the top-15 welterweights of all time’

Kamaru Usman v Colby Covington Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Kamaru Usman may not like Colby Covington, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect him.

Next month, Usman will defend his welterweight title against Covington in the main event of UFC 268. It’s a rematch of their first title fight back at UFC 245, that saw Usman retain his belt with a fifth-round TKO victory. Since the loss, Covington has been campaigning heavily for a rematch, claiming that Usman cheated during their fight and that the referee stoppage was premature. On top of that, Covington also baselessly accused Usman of taking performance-enhancing drugs his entire career, but though Covington certainly isn’t making any friends with his comments, the UFC welterweight champion says he still respects what Covington has done in the cage.

“He’s definitely up there,” Usman told Helen Yee. “I’m no hater, I give props where props are due. I think Colby probably is, I would put him in the top-15 welterweights of all time, as far as fighter-wise and skill-wise, the way that he fights. You may not like him personally, which I really don’t, but as far as skill-wise, he’s a good fighter. A very, very good fighter.”

Though Covington’s record backs up what Usman says, “Chaos” has been pretty quiet since their last meeting, having fought just once, a fifth-round TKO victory over former champion Tyron Woodley last fall. Usman, meanwhile, has continued his dominance over the welterweight division, adding three more title defenses to his record. But though he hasn’t fought much since their first bout, there has been one major change for Covington: a switch in fight camps. Even with the change though, “The Nigerian Nightmare” suspects that this fight will look much like their first.

“I think we were both content with understanding that was a Mano a Mano, we needed to duke it out, we needed to go back in the day and just throw fisticuffs and see who got the better of the other,” Usman said. “I told him, I said I would punish him for four and a half rounds and I would finish him and that’s exactly what I did. I think in this next fight he’s gonna try to be a little more strategic but he’s going to quickly realize that’s not gonna work so you’re just stuck in there getting beat up.”

Should Usman prove prescient, it would be his fifth welterweight title defense in a row, tying Matt Hughes for second all-time behind Georges St-Pierre. It would also put a cap on a tremendous year for Usman, who has scored knockouts over Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal already this year, with the Masvidal knockout being on the short list for KO of the Year. Another finish of Covington could well line Usman up for Fighter of the Year honors come December, however, Usman says he won’t force the issue. He’s content with simply beating Covington up again and if the knockout comes, all the better.

“It doesn’t matter. Finish or not, the way I fight I want to dominate a guy from start to finish,” Usman said. “I want to out-class a guy. I want a guy to go home, when they lay down in bed at night they’re like, ‘Sh*t, that guy’s better than me. There was nothing I can do to beat him.’ That’s what I want. That’s the feeling that I want to live with these guys each and every time they compete against me. So whether I finish him or not, I want him to have that feeling. But of course, the finish is great and that’s something that people highly anticipate from me right now.”

UFC 268 takes place Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY.


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