Dana White often says he doesn’t make fights right after UFC events, but he made a rare exception when he announced Colby Covington as the next contender for Leon Edwards’ welterweight title in the hours after UFC 286. So why was Covington a special case?
“That is true [we don’t make fights right after fights], but that was a no-brainer,” White said at UFC San Antonio’s post-fight press conference. “I mean, if [Kamaru] Usman doesn’t exist, Colby’s been the champ now for a while. And he’s been there forever. He cut the weight, he showed up to fill in for that fight, and a million other reasons why he deserves that fight.”
Edwards defended his welterweight throne with the second of back-to-back victories over former UFC champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 286, winning a majority decision. Edwards initially captured the belt from Usman with a stunning fifth-round knockout at UFC 278.
Covington has lost both of his previous shots at the UFC welterweight title, falling short to Usman via fifth-round knockout at UFC 245 and then by unanimous decision at UFC 268. He has only competed four times since Dec. 2019, sandwiching wins over Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal between his two losses to Usman. He has not fought since March 2022.
When asked whether the UFC still planned to give Covington the next title shot had Usman defeated Edwards to reclaim his belt at UFC 286, White answered in the affirmative.
“Probably, probably,” White said.
“He didn’t win so I’m not in that position.”
White’s announcement of Edwards vs. Covington has been divisive within the MMA world. Many have criticized the decision by pointing to Covington’s lack of recent activity or dearth of wins over current welterweight contenders, especially with Belal Muhammad having racked up a nine-fight unbeaten streak in the division since April 2019.
White bristled at the suggestion that Muhammad deserved the title shot more than Covington, stating only that the UFC had plans for Muhammad. White previously said the promotion hoped to book Muhammad against fast-rising prospect Shavkat Rakhmonov. White also shrugged off the idea that the UFC should’ve waited for Gilbert Burns and Masvidal to face off on April 8 in UFC 287’s co-main event before making a decision.
Among the most vocal critics of the UFC’s anointing of Covington has been Edwards himself and his team. Following his win, the reigning UFC welterweight champ scoffed at Covington’s title shot claim and stated on The MMA Hour that he does not intend to allow Covington to be the next man in line — a statement which drew ire from Covington.
In responding to Edwards, White made it clear that the UFC’s decision has been made.
“Why would Colby not deserve the fight? Can somebody explain that to me,” White said.
“He got jumped and was actually injured from it. Leon didn’t fight for like almost two years — he got the shot. Listen, it’s not like I’m a big [fan], ‘Oh, Colby, Colby.’ Colby Covington deserves this shot at the title. And I don’t blame Leon. Leon just got through Usman twice and now he’s looking at another wrestler with a funky style that’s tough to deal with. But that’s it. When you become the champ, everybody’s coming after you.
“All the straight killers are coming at you. Three times a f****** year, you’re faced with nothing but the baddest dudes in the world in your division. So it’s just part of the [role]. If you look at Usman and what he did, Usman ran through that division twice. Usman’s one of the greatest of all-time and Leon just beat him twice. You’re the man, Leon. You’re the guy. Everybody’s coming after you, and it’s going to be Colby next.”