Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington spent years together as close friends while training under the same roof at American Top Team in Florida but now they’ll attempt to destroy each other in the main event at UFC 272.
Former WEC champion Mike Brown was front and center while serving as head coach to both fighters for several years but now he’ll do everything possible to ensure Masvidal is victorious after Covington split with the gym and the bond between teammates transformed into a bitter rivalry.
While Masvidal is his only concern these days, Brown admits that it’s never easy to go up against somebody he previously coached, especially after spending 10 fights and nearly five years in Covington’s corner.
“It’s a strange fight but that’s no problem,” Brown told MMA Fighting. “I think [Colby] doesn’t care. He’s on his own path. I think it’s just business. Preparation, get ready and have Jorge ready and take care of business.”
In the lead up to the fight, a lot of nasty words have been exchanged with all sorts of allegations tossed back and forth about the relationship Masvidal and Covington once shared not to mention the contentious nature on how it all fell apart.
There have also been more than a few threats of bodily harm — it’s mixed martial arts after all so that kind of goes with the territory — but in this case the welterweights are promising hospital visits or perhaps even a trip to the morgue after the fight is over.
For all the animosity being spewed between two fighters who genuinely do not like each other, Brown promises none of that has bled over into Masvidal’s training.
In fact, it’s never really even come up.
“I don’t address it,” Brown said. “It’s not a problem. This is nothing new for Jorge. If anybody can handle that type of thing, it’s him. He deals with pressure better than anybody I know. Very calm, very relaxed. It’s different.”
Considering he’s seen both side of the sport, first as a fighter and now as a coach, Brown understands that this kind of situation can make or break some athletes.
“There are guys that are unbelievable fighters, like top level fighters that never make it to the UFC because they can’t handle the stress and the pressure,” Brown said. “The pressure gets to them. They don’t perform like they can in the gym.
“Jorge is a guy who can do exactly what he wants in a fight as he does in the gym, always.”
Perhaps the best possible compliment that he can pay, Brown considers Masvidal to have the highest fight IQ of any athlete he’s ever coached and that goes a long way towards the success he expects to find when matched up with Covington on Saturday night.
“Some people, pressure affects greatly and I think it’s a genetic thing but some [fighters], the stress doesn’t bother them at all,” Brown said. “[Jorge Masvidal] is one of those guys. He is as cool as they come under the heaviest pressure.
“For instance, this was a while back, it would be fight day and it’s chaotic, a lot of things going on, but nothing seems to bother this guy. He always seems calm, cool, collected no matter what. No outside forces ever get into his head.”
The intensity surrounding the rivalry will only get ratcheted up over the next few days as Masvidal and Covington engage with the media before facing off for the first time on Thursday during the UFC 272 pre-fight press conference.
A second staredown will take place 24 hours later at the official weigh-ins, which means there will be plenty of time for Masvidal and Covington to hurl expletives at each other before finally getting to opportunity to actually throw punches in the octagon.
While all of that might drown some athletes in unnecessary emotion, Brown never expects Masvidal to be anything other than cold and calculating when it comes to his execution.
Masvidal and Covington might even continue jawing at each other during the fight but Brown has total faith that the strategy will remain the same and the results will prove it.
“He can stay very calm under pressure,” Brown said about Masvidal. “I think he’s kind of built for it and nothing much bothers him.”