Kamaru Usman was never in danger of being stripped, despite a claim to the contrary made by Colby Covington earlier this week.
Covington spoke with Brett Okamoto of ESPN and said that Usman was forced into accepting a rematch against him because the UFC apparently threatened to strip him of his welterweight championship. The rematch was ultimately agreed upon and will serve as the headliner of an upcoming pay-per-view event in UFC 268, but not for the reason Covington alleged.
Usman told Daniel Cormier on a recent edition of The DC Check-In that there were two reasons why a second fight with Covington was made, and being stripped was not one of them. The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ said that another opportunity to style on ‘Chaos’ was too good to refuse and looks forward to doing it again in November. Usman and Covington met almost two years ago at UFC 245, where their ‘Fight of the Year’ contender ended dramatically as the reigning champion stopped the No. 1 contender via late fifth-round technical knockout.
“How they gonna take the belt? I think I’m the only champ who has fought two times already this year. I’m not sure,” said Usman. “I believe I’m the only champ. It’s gonna be three in a calendar year. What champ is really doing that? I chose to take this fight because…there’s something you feel when you get into a certain fight to where you lose yourself in the fight, and you’re just having fun. And it was something in that fight to where I was having fun. I’m smiling. I ain’t even think about I was never tired at all. I’m smiling. I’m laughing at him. I’m talking to him. I’m calling [to] him, ‘Quit trying to be a b—ch’. Quit crying’. I’m talking to him in there the whole time.
“And it’s just something about when I got done with it, I was like, ‘Wow, that was fun,’” continued Usman. “I got hit a lot and I know I can’t get into these many fights that often because, of course, I gotta protect my health. But that was fun. I would love to do that one more time. And he seems to be that guy that’s talking up a good game that he’s good enough to try to push me there again. So I wanna see it. I wanna see it.”
The other reason why Usman signed on to fight Covington again was that Leon Edwards was unable to convince him he was truly ready for a shot at the title following his most recent performance against Nate Diaz at UFC 263 this past June. Edwards welcomed a returning Diaz back to the Octagon and dominated the Stockton native until a near fight-ending flaw in the final minute of the contest almost cost him the win.
Edwards was rocked by a left hand from Diaz and appeared to be on the verge of being finished. ‘Rocky’ survived and won a unanimous decision, but that very moment was enough for Usman to call into question his status as a potential title challenger. Usman told Cormier that if Edwards went out there and “sealed the deal” against Diaz, maybe he would have been standing across from him instead of Covington.
“Someone has to keep it real with this guy,” said Usman. “At the end of the day, we know — let’s be honest here. We know this is a business. This a partnership between us and the promotion. It’s a partnership, you gotta give them something to work with. You gotta give them something to sell. And they have thrown you bone after bone after bone. Let’s just be honest. Based on that last performance, you can’t go out there and do that with Nate Diaz. You can’t do that.
“Absolutely because that was an audition. You have to audition. These are all my sons. You have to audition for me now. You audition for me and then I’ll decide if you are that guy. And myself and the promotion, we’ll sit down and we’ll say, ‘I like this audition tape. Let’s go ahead and pick him next’ and he went out there and he was auditioning, and for a while, he did okay. Then all of a sudden, the 25th minute, you s—t the bed. You can’t do that. So, that’s what forced the promotion’s hand and my hand because this is business now.”
Usman and Covington settle their business at UFC 268, while Edwards has a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the champion in his highly anticipated fight opposite of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 269.
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