Over the weekend, Colby Covington defeated Robbie Lawler to keep his interim UFC welterweight title.
However, it was his post-fight comments during interviews that reminded the world just why he should never touch a microphone.
During the post-fight interview with UFC commentator Jon Anik, Covington took shots at an unlikely target, retired former UFC champ Matt Hughes.
“Let’s talk about the lesson we learned tonight that Robbie should have learned from his good buddy Matt Hughes. You stay off the tracks when the train is coming through, junior.”
Hughes is a former mentor and training partner of Lawler who was severely injured in a June 2017 incident when his truck was struck by a train at a rail crossing. The “tracks” comment was a dig at Hughes’ life-changing injury.
Covington followed up with no regrets.
“Not at all. Did I say something that was offensive? The guy’s done some pretty crappy stuff, he’s got lawsuits against his family, against his brother, I just said the truth; i’m honest. I’m a little bit brutally honest sometimes and people can’t handle it.”
But it didn’t stop there.
When Covington was ushered to the host desk featuring Karyn Bryant, “Suga” Rashad Evans, and current UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, the fireworks really began.
The two had to be flanked by security and verbally fought on air. Both expressed their desires to fight one another voraciously, an extension of their UFC 235 pre-fight run-in at a casino buffet. Usman went on to defeat Tyron Woodley and become the champion as the main event of that fight.
The Price Of Hype
This week, UFC President Dana White announced that Covington will now get his shot at Kamaru Usman next. Covington delivered a record amount of strikes in his domination win over Robbie Lawler, impressing the UFC brass.
With so much trash talk and out of cage antics, it’s a fight that the UFC is itching to promote as it will undoubtedly do well, one which will enable them to capitalize on the two vocal, polar opposites.
However, with Covington extending the wrestling “heel” bad guy schtick into the most gutter realms, is the UFC continuing a pattern of sacrificing its dignity to develop its new stars? And do they even care?
Chael Sonnen first began the UFC’s path into disrespectful fight hype when he fought and lost to Anderson Silva twice. While Sonnen’s was more bravado, questioning Silva’s athletic dominance, the true king of the street baiting technique is “The Nototrious” Conor McGregor.
The Irishman’s mouth has made him the richest athlete in UFC history, but he broke a huge swarth of the UFC Code of Conduct in the process. From Islamaphobic taunts to digs at opponent’s families, McGregor showed that there are no holds barred in the pursuit of riches and fame.
His nemesis, Khabib Nurmagomedov, took the hate to heart and destroyed McGregor at UFC 229, after which Khabib infamously jumped into the audience to take his frustrations out on members of McGregor’s camp. Since that beatdown, McGregor hasn’t returned to the cage.
Now Covington sees the path of gold clearly and has ratcheted up his version of Conor McGregor, donning Donald Trump MAGA hats and employing ignorance in his rants. From almost causing a riot in Brazil by calling Brazilians “filthy animals” to his misogynistic social media presence, Covington is redefining what’s acceptable in martial arts.
With Dana White’s lack of enforcing his own Code of Conduct in lieu of the profits gained from these antics and fights steeped in hatred, the “habitual line-stepping” (RIP Charlie Murphy) tactics of McGregor and Covington have negatively affected the UFC’s status as a respectable organization.
With more white contenders and champions employing an uber toxic, WWE style verbal offense to sell their fights, the UFC is unquestioningly verifying that its white combatants can buck the rules for profits.
If this process continues, the UFC will be nothing more than a battle royal for race, religion and culture wars and not athletic competition.