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The UFC’s end of year event, UFC 245, over the weekend delivered in more ways than one.
While Urijah “The California Kid” Faber’s comeback fight was spoiled by a head kick and Max Holloway lost his title unceremoniously, the main event delivered.
UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman snuffed out the hype train that was Colby “Chaos” Covington. The bitter rivalry that had been brewing for months came to a head in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Usman left with his hand raised. Covington left with his jaw wired.
MMA’s MAGA Buster
The UFC has gone against all the conventional Church and State rules of a sports organization with its love for Donald Trump. With UFC President Dana White literally stumping for Trump’s successful first campaign, the premier MMA promotion has made no qualms about its allegiance to #45.
So it was no surprise when little known fighter Colby Covington decided to utilize the momentum of MAGA and virtually shove it down fans throats. Donning the signature red hat and dark shades, Covington became a heel of epic wrestling level proportions and became a star for his efforts.
From misogynistic parodies to disrespecting the entire country of Brazil, while in Brazil, Covington sprung from the post-McGregor era where anything quite literally goes.
From staging his own mini brawl at a Las Vegas casino buffet to utilizing his platform in the most egregious of ways, Covington represents the white angst holing fans of the UFC. Its the same energy that made progenitor Chael Sonnen an MMA posterboy mainstay and elevated McGregor to almost mythical status.
However, Usman’s fifth round finish of Covington was about more than a championship win, it was about the culture.
There’s No ‘MAGA’ In Martial Arts
The martial arts have always been about respect. In fact, jiu jitsu literally means “the gentle art which is a direct correlation to the principles of combat sports.
In the highly competitive and lucrative UFC ranks, respect has been trumped for tickets. Before McGregor’s controversial fight in 2018 against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, he unleashed a flurry of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Drinking his Proper 12 whiskey from press conference stages, calling Nurmagomedov’s wife a towel for wearing an Islamic burka and much more, the UFC executed no consequences for these actions. In fact, clips from McGregor’s infamous riot in the backstage of the Barclays Center was used as a promotional video for the fight.
The UFC Code of Conduct for its athletes is supposed to regulate the need for athletic promotion tempered with the sensitivities of the fans of different cultures that they serve. But in a climate where the UFC sold for $4 billion but had to cancel an initial public offering, the only thing that matters is the bottom line.
Fighters come and go but the UFC brand is the mainstay and Covington’s over-the-top antics and political views cloud the athleticism of the sport.
The UFC walked a dangerous line of alienating many fans for the promotion of classlessness. But Usman’s demolition of Covington sent a signal that it would not be tolerated by all.
While Covington and McGregor made their success stories loud and intrusive, the game began to change quietly in another direction.
Amanda Nunes is now a double champ and openly gay. Both Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman are Nigerian and the UFC’s first African champions.
Jorge Masvidal is the UFC’s inaugural BMF (Baddest Motherf*cker) champ and is a Cuban-American, Miami based protege of Kimbo Slice.
The complexion of the talent and the fans are changing and so are the cultural torchbearers. With his KO of Covington, Usman put the game on notice that all the gimmicks were over. Masvidal set it off with his :05 flying knee KO of Ben Askren at UFC 239 and Nurmagomedov with the vicious neck crank that made McGregor tap out.
As chief’s MMA organization, competitors like Bellator and ONE FC are working diligently to close the gap in the race to be the biggest in MMA, the UFC should thank its new gentry of color for the restoration of respect. The saying is and always will be that the bigger you are, the harder you fall and the UFC has been careening toward a cultural collapse of epic proportions.
Until…Colby Covington’s jaw.