Colby Covington says Kamaru Usman was given two options ahead of their fight at UFC 268: either accept the rematch or be stripped of the welterweight championship.
Usman and Covington were involved in a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate almost two years ago at UFC 245, where ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ stopped ‘Chaos’ via fifth-round technical knockout. Covington was enraged by how referee Marc Goddard dealt with the stoppage, believed it was premature and said he was “robbed” of a fair fight. He also alleged that Goddard was biased against him and cited two incidents — a low blow and an eye poke — during the fight that were supposedly mishandled to favor Usman.
Because of the controversy, Covington wanted an immediate rematch but did not get one. Usman went on to defend his championship against Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal twice. Covington thought it would be wise to sit on the sidelines and wait for another shot at Usman before he accepted a fight opposite of a former champion in Tyron Woodley. He finished Woodley and used the win to ask for Usman again, which eventually worked. Usman and Covington agreed to meet for the second time, but the UFC apparently had to move mountains for the champion to come to terms to the fight.
Covington spoke to Brett Okamoto of ESPN recently and explained why the rematch took so long to book.
“It’s been such a journey,” said Covington. “It’s been tough. It wasn’t supposed to happen. They did not want it to happen. His manager, they were refusing. They were trying to find every way in the book out of fighting this rematch. They didn’t want this fight and the only reason they have to take it is the UFC gave them no choice. They said, ‘Hey, you fight this fight or we just strip you. It’s one or the other. You’ve got to come out and prove you’re the best in the world. There needs to be no controversy surrounding this fight.’ So it’s been tough.
“I had to go out and finish a former world champion in Woodley,” continued Covington. “He got two easy paychecks against lightweights that should have never been there. In his last fight, he’s beaten a guy ‘Street Judas’ Masvidal. I was beating that guy decades ago. That’s not an achievement. You’re proud for beating that guy? That guy is a lightweight, he shouldn’t even be up here at the top of the mountain.”
Covington then addressed whether he sees a difference in the style of Usman since their first fight. Under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman and his team, Usman has become more than just a feared wrestler. His improvements in the striking department have been on full display, as evidenced by his finishes of the aforementioned Burns and Masvidal, the latter of which has been considered a ‘Knockout of the Year’ contender by fans and pundits alike.
Covington dismissed the improvements and said he still saw the same Usman in those recent fights.
“I haven’t seen anything. I see the same fighter. He comes out with a heavy jab, has a big right hand. That’s kind of been the story of his career before, and that’s what he always went to in the past. So, yeah. He’s knocking out lightweights, he’s knocking out guys that shouldn’t be in there with him. These are easy paychecks and there’s a reason he fought those guys because he knew he was going to win.”
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