The bitter rivalry between Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley dominated the conversation around the UFC’s welterweight division for the better part of 2018. Now it may not ever get a chance to be settled inside the cage.
Woodley dropped his UFC welterweight title last month with a one-sided upset loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235. Covington, the former interim welterweight champion, was expected to face the winner of Usman vs. Woodley and is now tentatively slotted into a matchup against Usman, which is likely to take place sometime in the summer.
Covington predicted Woodley to defeat Usman at UFC 235 and admittedly was pulling for that outcome after pouring countless barrels of gasoline over the feud between he and Woodley in recent years. So in that respect, Covington was disappointed with how things played out at UFC 235 — but he also wasn’t surprised.
“I wasn’t surprised. I was picking Woodley because that’s the biggest fight for me,” Covington recently told MMA Fighting. “That’s the fight that I’ve built up for the last couple years. That’s the fight that I really wanted. I wanted to prove to the world everything that I know. I trained with Woodley for years at American Top Team, I know what I’m capable of, I know what I did to him every day in training. And he was trying to [push a] fake news liberal soy boy narrative and I wanted to prove that wrong. I wanted to show the world that I’m a man of my word and everything I say is true.
“So it sucks that Snoozeman has to rain on that parade, but we also found a guy in Woodley that was a shell of his former self. That’s not the same guy. That’s a guy that spread himself thin. He’s out doing TMZ interviews. He’s out trying to do these B-list movie roles that go straight to DVD. He’s out trying to do rap albums talking about me, chaos theories, making songs about me. His head’s not even in the game anymore, so we saw a guy that’s not even top-10 worthy anymore. That guy literally should retire yesterday.”
The loss at UFC 235 brought an end to a three-year title reign for Woodley, who first captured his belt with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler in July 2016. Woodley retained his strap in four consecutive fights, twice outlasting Stephen Thompson, then outpointing Demian Maia and dominating Darren Till.
But Usman’s smothering style proved to be Woodley’s kryptonite, and Covington believes all of the many outside-of-cage factors that Woodley surrounded himself with — from scheduling the release party for his debut rap album for the day after UFC 235, to looking past Usman in favor of a potential grudge match with Covington himself — distracted the former champion from the task at hand in Las Vegas.
“Tyron should’ve retired. He looked like shit, man,” Covington said. “He looked like he didn’t even want to be in there. He looked like a deer in the headlights, like, ‘Oh shit, I’m actually fighting. I’ve got to actually fight.’ He was talking all this big game about me and he was already looking ahead to the fight with me, ‘Colby’s next,’ this and that. He didn’t even worry about what was in front of him, so he ruined everything. I told him don’t f*ck it up and look what he did, he went and f*cked it up.”