Reigning UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman had the toughest fight of his MMA career when he battled top 170-pound contender Colby Covington in the UFC 245 PPV main event back in late 2019, but tried to convince fans (or perhaps himself) that his Jorge Masvidal beef was the rivalry that needed a definitive ending.
You know, “full camp” and all that jazz.
But Covington suggests the Masvidal do-over, as well as Usman’s welterweight title defense opposite Gilbert Burns, were easier fights that kept him from taking on Covington for a second time, despite the fact that UFC President Dana White and his team of matchmakers were pushing for another five rounds against “Chaos.”
Or so the story goes.
“It’s been such a journey,” Covington told ESPN (transcribed by MMA Fighting). “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 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.”
After their 2019 “Fight of the Night,” Usman scored successful title defenses against Masvidal and Burns, then Masvidal for a second time. Covington, meanwhile, competed just once, a technical knockout victory over former champion Tyron Woodley in Sept. 2020 in what marked the second-to-last UFC fight for “The Chosen One.”
“The fact is no one wanted to fight me,” Covington continued. “Go to Hunter Campbell, go to Dana White, ask them the truth. No one would fight me. ‘Street Judas’ Masvidal, they wanted to make this big hype fight, best friends turned rivals who hate each other’s guts now. He was running his mouth in the media saying all this and that, ‘I’ll drop Colby on sight, that guy’s fragile, blah blah blah.’ I was trying to put on the biggest and best fights for the UFC. No one wanted to take the bait so now we are here and we get the best fight in the welterweight division and it’s gonna be a real treat for the fans.”
Unless something unfortunate happens as a result of injury or COVID-19, Usman will rematch Covington in the UFC 268 main event on Nov. 6 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner is expected to move on to face top contender Leon Edwards — assuming “Rocky” can get past Masvidal at UFC 269.