Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC
The reigning UFC welterweight champion has a pair of victories over both Covington and Masvidal over his last five title defenses. Usman is in Las Vegas to watch the matchup between two of his most heated rivals and took part in a Q&A with Megan Olivi and members of the media ahead of the UFC 272 ceremonial weigh-ins.
Among the questions asked of the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings had to do with Masvidal’s claims that Covington had been a “quitter” on a few occasions during their sparring sessions at American Top Team, and if Usman believed there was some truth to that declaration
“Absolutely,” Usman said of Covington. “If you look back after the third round [in our first fight at UFC 245] when I cracked his jaw, he went back to his corner and told them, ‘My jaw is broken.’ He wanted a way out. Hey, he might have toughed it out and cleaned it up, and he’s no longer that guy, but I think everybody has a price. If Masvidal can do enough damage, I think Colby will make that deal with himself to be able to quit.”
Usman is quite familiar with being on the receiving end of a Covington fight build and how ugly things can get. Having said that, Usman respects “Chaos” as a fighter and admitted he was surprised at how much Covington’s striking improved in the main event of November’s UFC 268 event where “The Nigerian Nightmare” earned a unanimous decision win.
While there has been evolution to Covington’s game, Usman believes that Covington’s bread and butter could be the difference maker, especially if the bout enters the championship rounds.
“It don’t look good for Masvidal [if this fight gets extended],” Usman said. “I’m just being honest. If it goes to the later rounds, that means Colby has found a way to keep the fight going as long as he can, so I don’t think that favors Masvidal.
“I don’t think he’s gonna be able to hold [Masvidal] down, maybe not until the later rounds, but that works good for Colby because he doesn’t necessarily want to hold guys down. He just wants to be able to drag him down so they have to work to get back up, then drag them back down. What’s really going to make the difference in this fight is Masvidal’s ability to not get tired. But Covington has more ways to win.”
The gambling community seems to be fully in favor of Covington, as he enters the bout as an over 3-to-1 favorite over Masvidal, a 50-fight pro. Even though Usman feels Covington has more tools and weapons, the 170-pound titleholder sees a path where “Gamebred” could find success.
“I think Jorge just got to press him,” Usman explained. “Jorge’s wrestling defense is much better than I thought because he stands straight up in that stance, bounces up and down, and you think it’s easy to take him down but it was tougher than I thought. He’s got to press Covington and you’ve got to make him remember all them times he slept on your couch, eating those $2 McDonald’s burgers, you’ve got to make him remember that.”