Colby Covington knows he’s not the most popular fighter on the UFC roster.
In fact, the outspoken Trump supporting former interim welterweight champion might just be the most despised athlete on the roster today but that doesn’t mean his grievances with the promotion aren’t legitimate.
Covington was promised a title shot against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on numerous occasions — and he’s said yes to all of them minus one — but somehow he still got shut out of the next title fight at UFC 235 in March.
Covington’s saga with the UFC started after he wasn’t able to make a quick turn around following his five round title fight win over Rafael dos Anjos last June when he was offered a shot at Woodley just three months later at UFC 228 in September.
Covington had sinus surgery planned after his last fight and refused to compete again while struggling to breathe, especially with so much on the line. That transgression was forgiven as Covington then lobbied for a fight against Woodley in November and again in January while accepting all of the dates that were offered to him.
Unfortunately, Woodley was still dealing with recovery from thumb surgery following his win at UFC 228 over Darren Till and he wasn’t able to compete on either of those proposed dates. The UFC then shifted focus by asking Covington to accept a different fight against Kamaru Usman in January and he declined by saying he wanted to wait for Woodley.
When the UFC then decided to book Woodley for his next title defense on March 2 at UFC 235, Covington says he never received a call.
“They never talked to me about March. As soon as January didn’t happen, they said I had to fight someone else, I had to fight backwards,” Covington explained on Monday. “I was like what do you mean? You promised me Tyron Woodley. I have a belt. I went to the White House. I’m the only fighter to ever go to the White House and meet with a sitting president. I’m not going backwards. I have a belt.
“Tyron Woodley has disputed championship. I have a belt. I never lost my belt. We need to unify these belts. I’m only fighting Tyron Woodley because you promised me Tyron Woodley.”
Despite those promises, the UFC booked Woodley against surging contender Kamaru Usman instead and to this day Covington has never had it explained to him why he was passed over.
That’s why Covington is handing out a warning to all the fighters on the roster — whether you like him or not — that his situation should serve as a cautionary tale to what can happen when you don’t play by the UFC’s rules.
“I’m the most hated person in the UFC and people aren’t going to take that side but they better wake up and they better realize that this has nothing to do with what I say or what I’ve done,” Covington explained. “This has to do with the position I’m in. I won a belt. Dana White wrapped a belt around my waist. All these guys are being given promises from the UFC but what makes you think you’re any different than me? I’m one of the biggest draws in the sport today and they’re doing this to me.
“Imagine what they’re going to do to you when you’re not a draw and you’re not selling fights and you’re not entertaining. What do you think they’re going to do? Hopefully fighters realize my situation and they come to my side.”
Covington knows he’s not the first person to earn a title shot only to get passed over by somebody else but he believes it’s time for the fighters to stand up for themselves when it comes to the behind the scenes politics that lead to situations like these.
While he’s not exactly expecting a rallying cry to his cause, Covington knows what happened to him will probably happen to somebody else if changes aren’t made.
“I’m standing up for all the fighters. Whether people agree with me or not, I’m pretty much fighting a battle for all the fighters and the next generation of fighters,” Covington said. “Because I’m standing my ground. I’m not going to be bullied. I’m not a yes man. When the UFC says jump, I’m not saying how high because that’s not fair to me.
“The UFC thinks they run off their brand but that’s not true. The UFC runs off the fighters so hopefully these fighters take notice and how I’m going about my business.”
In his argument, Covington also cited numerous online polls that ran asking who fans wanted to see as Woodley’s next title defense and he was the overwhelming choice each time.
Add to that, Woodley said publicly that he wanted to face Covington first and then deal with Usman later this year but still that’s not how the situation played out.
Covington feels like the UFC is ultimately punishing the fans by not giving them what they want to see and it’s going to hurt them in the end.
“The UFC wants to continue to devalue their brand and they want to continue to f–k over all the fans that built this sport, that built it into the $4 billion industry that it is today. That’s basically what it is,” Covington said. “They want to lie to people and screw people over. That’s why I’m not fighting for the title.
“This is going to end up hurting them in the end. They’re just digging their own grave.”