VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A lot goes into booking a UFC championship bout, and a lot can go wrong in the process.
Just ask Colby Covington who has been a top-3 contender at 170 pounds for the last few years, but has found himself unable to secure a shot at an undisputed title. Even an interim championship win over Rafael dos Anjos in June of last year didn’t lead to Covington getting a shot at then-welterweight king Tyron Woodley.
According to Woodley, one person who should shoulder the majority of the blame for Covington’s missed opportunities? Colby Covington.
“Colby does a good job of putting his own foot in his mouth,” Woodley said. “I know people say that about me, but he’s a complete dumbass. He’s talked himself out of three world title fights. He was supposed to fight me before I fought Till, he bitched out of that fight. He was supposed to fight me before I fought Usman, he bitched out of that fight. You guys can do the math as to what he did with the Usman fight.
“My goal is to get my belt back, so obviously (current welterweight champion) (Kamaru) Usman is going to be my top priority. If Colby want to get that ass whupped, he can get whupped up too.”
For Covington’s part, he has said it’s the UFC who should receive scrutiny for how it handled the negotiations (or lack thereof) for a welterweight title bout between Usman and Covington, which would have taken place at UFC 244 in New York City. Instead, a welterweight headliner between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal has been pegged for that event.
Despite his criticism of Covington, Woodley insisted he holds no ill will towards “Chaos” and that he doesn’t let emotion dictate his performance against anyone.
“To be honest, I don’t hate him,” Woodley said. “Hate is a very strong word. I don’t hate anybody. I definitely don’t like him. If he was on fire, I wouldn’t pee on him. The thing about it is I think sometimes we run away from our emotions. You’ve got to use those emotions. I think a lot of time my emotion might take me out of what I do best, which is figure out my opponent, take away their weaknesses, and leave them to deal with me.
“I’m not gonna take that away, but if I get an opportunity where I see him hurt, or if I get an opportunity to beat him to the punch, punch him, grab his neck, break his arm, I’m gonna do it. So this is a fight where I’m excited about the emotion that I have towards him and I know he can’t deal with me.”
With the welterweight picture in flux now that Usman won’t be defending his title in November, and Diaz and Masvidal potentially moving closer to the front of the contenders’ line after their fight, Woodley may have to take another fight before receiving a rematch with Usman or booking that Covington grudge match.
Specifically regarding Masvidal, a man that Woodley has trained with at American Top Team, Woodley was asked for his reaction to Masvidal knocking out Ben Askren in spectacular fashion. Askren is a teammate of Woodley’s when the champion puts in work at Roufusport in Milwaukee, and a close friend, but Woodley didn’t express a desire to avenge Askren’s loss given the relationship he also has with Masvidal.
“I train with Masvidal a lot, actually more than I trained with Ben. It’s the nature of the game, the cream always rises to the top so it’s inevitable that people that you respect and that you train with end up meeting each other,” Woodley said. “Of course I wasn’t celebrating and jumping around the room when he knocked out my teammate. This is not just my MMA teammate. This is a guy that went to the University of Missouri partly because of the tradition we was building there. Somebody I wrestled alongside with, wrestled every single day in practice, close to two years. What people don’t know about me is that I went to Roufusport, part of the reason I went there was because of Ben Askren, because of Anthony Pettis, because of Duke Roufus, and really made the puzzle to beat a southpaw wrestler. You look at my resume, it was Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till, Demian Maia, ‘Wonderboy’ twice. All these guys are southpaws. So I’m not gonna not be friendly to Masvidal because of what happened with Ben, but if we was in a situation where they were about to talk a little sh*t about Ben, I’d be like, ‘Hey, that’s my guy. I’m not gonna sit here and listen to y’all talk sh*t, but if you want to have that conversation…’ I’m gonna step away and I’m not gonna be an accessory.
“At this point in my career, whenever I walk out there again, I want to be motivated. I want that anxiety, I want to see what he did to Ben, how fast his hands was against Till, that’s gonna gear me up even more to get out there and get it done. But I don’t see that fight happening unless we’re in a title fight.”