August 4, 2019

Colby Covington vs. Kamaru Usman: The Buildup To This Fight Is Going To Get Ugly

By Raphael Garcia

In 2019, sports networks such as ESPN are pushing for a world in which politics and sports do not intersect. History and current affairs tell us that’s never going to be the case, and Colby Covington is yet another example of why. Many shake their heads at his cringeworthy antics, but he’s now pushed himself into a position to challenge for the UFC Welterweight Championship. Now we have to prepare for the title fight to come, and hope that the buildup to that fight doesn’t get as ugly as our fears.

For five rounds Covington dominated former champion Robbie Lawler in the main event of UFC on ESPN 5, earning a clear path to a title shot against Kamaru Usman. The back and forth between the two has already started, and reached a boiling point during the postfight interview segment at the ESPN stage. What we saw there is just a hint at how these next few months will go leading into this matchup. Promotion has always been a major part of financial success in combat sports, but there’s reason to be concerned about where the angles leading into a fight between Covington and Usman may go.

Covington’s rise to fame from a run-of-the-mill wrestler to flag-carrying “patriot” has been one filled with cringe and catchphrases. As Eric and Donald Trump Jr watched from cageside, Covington made a controversial crack about Matt Hughes' near-fatal train accident while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. That is just a recent entry into the long line of statements and actions that have turned some off to Covington, but have also helped to build up a sizable fan base.

Now Covington’s antics will be targeted at an African immigrant in Usman. That setup has all the makings of a scenario that will bring some ugly truths about the current landscape of MMA to the forefront. This is the same sport that has found itself become a haven for white supremacists training for a supposed “race war.” This is the same sport in which fighters like Ben Askren and Conor McGregor have been lauded for controversial statements about minorities, statements that are evocative of those that have come from President Donald Trump and many within his MAGA base. It’s hard to believe that those same tropes won’t be touched on by Covington, as ESPN chronicles every word.


So when – not if – this does occur, what will be the response from the UFC? Will it embrace the dangerous narratives the same way it did during the buildup of the fight between McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov? Or will the organization look back at all the times that situation crossed the line and choose to step in before things get too ugly? If you were planning on betting on the outcome, I'd urge you to put money on the former, rather than the latter – especially as this fight will be heavily promoted across all of ESPN's platforms. There’s money to be made on hate when said hate culminates in a fight, and for the UFC and ESPN, there's no way a "no politics" stance will stand between these two companies and maximizing their profits.

On paper, Colby Covington vs. Kamaru Usman is a compelling fight between two interesting styles in one of the toughest divisions in all mixed martial arts. Unfortunately, most of what we will be talking about regarding this pairing will pertain to the clash of words that will take place outside of the Octagon, rather than the clash of styles within it. And don’t be surprised if some of the prefight commentary comes from members of the Trump family. Buckle yourself in for what is going to be one of the nastiest buildups to a fight in recent UFC history.

UFC on ESPN 5
Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler: Colby Covington defeats Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45).

TBA
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington (UFC Welterweight Championship)

UFC on ESPN 5: Covington vs. Lawler took place August 3, 2019 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN 5 Post-Fight Analysis


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