How Colby Covington has become one of the UFC's biggest draws

How Colby Covington became UFC’s most divisive fighter thanks to cosy dinners with Donald Trump, branding Brazilians ‘filthy animals’ and partying with bikini-clad beauties – after grim jibe about Leon Edwards’ late father

  • Colby Covington will return to the UFC as he takes on Leon Edwards at UFC 296  
  • Here, Mail Sport takes a look at the American’s controversial rise in the UFC 
  • Ireland’s BEST since Conor McGregor! Why is there so much noise around MMA star Ian Garry – Listen to The Hook 

This Saturday night, one of the UFC’s most divisive fighters returns to the octagon, bringing with him all the noise and gimmicks that resuscitated his career.

Colby Covington will make his long-awaited return when he fights England’s Leon Edwards in a bout for the UFC’s welterweight title at UFC 296 in Las Vegas. 

It’ll be the first time that the American has stepped foot inside the cage since his victory over 2022 and the brash, loud personification of ‘Make America Great Again’ is revelling in the limelight. 

The 35-year-old is, no doubt, an entertaining fighter however it’s his antics outside the octagon – and typically in the build-up to fights – which piques people’s interests and did so again as he made a sickeningly distasteful jibe about Edwards’ late father, who was murdered in a London nightclub when ‘Rocky’ was 13. 

Donald Trump will be cageside on Saturday night and the pair’s respective public images have become completely intertwined. Here Mail Sport takes a look at how Covington’s reinvention out of the cage led to his success inside it. 

Colby Covington (L) will make his long-awaited return to the UFC when he faces Leon Edwards (R) in a bout for the UFC welterweight title on Saturday night

Covington – who has a long-standing relationship with former US President Donald Trump – has become one of the most controversial figures within the UFC

From videos with bikini-clad women to antics outside the octagon, the American mixed martial arts star is always making headlines

Tempers frayed between Covington and Edwards after the American’s vile joke about the Brit’s late father at the press conference on Thursday 

When taking a look at the self-proclaimed ‘super villain’ of the UFC, we have to cast our minds back 2017 – when the American star was at risk of leaving the company. 

Covington – who signed with the UFC in 2014 – had just beaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Demian Maia and claimed his eighth victory in nine fights. 

Despite his impressive performances, prior to the fight, Covington discovered that the UFC were planning on cutting him from the organisation all-together. 

Covington quickly realised that he would need to do something drastic to keep his dreams alive and, thus, created an ‘act’, or at the very least, an enhanced version of himself. 

After beating Maia in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the welterweight took the microphone to label the crowd as ‘filthy animals’ before declaring the country itself was a ‘dump’.

Reflecting on the incident on The Candace Owens Show, he said: ‘I think my big break – I’ve never told this story before – but three fights ago before I fought the No. 2 guy in the world, this guy named Demian Maia in Brazil, they had told my manager Dan Lambert that they weren’t going to re-sign me.

‘They didn’t like my style. They didn’t like that I wasn’t entertaining, and this is before I really started to become an entertainer and understand the entertainment aspect of this business. 

‘So before this fight, they told me no matter what happens – I was ranked No. 6 in the world – we’re not re-signing you. ‘We don’t like your character. We don’t like your fighting style.’ And I’m getting paid $30,000 to go fight the No. 2 guy in the world.

After beating Maia in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Covington took the microphone to label the crowd as ‘filthy animals’

He has since continued to play out his ‘bad guy persona’ throughout his UFC career

‘Like, after you pay taxes and pay your coaches, you’re really going to get like five or 10 thousand dollars. So I go out there. I beat him up and leave him in a pool of his own blood in Sao Paulo, Brazil, his home city, and I shoot this promo on the Brazilians, and I say, ‘Hey, you guys are all a bunch of filthy animals, and, Brazil, you’re a dump.”

‘I wasn’t supposed to have my job, but that promo goes so viral on the internet, that the UFC’s like, we have to keep him, we have to re-sign him because that promo is so big. 

‘So that’s what saved my career and that was the turning point of my career. The rest has been history’.

Since then, Covington has seldom dropped his persona and has continued to antagonise the majority of the UFC roster. 

A prime example of that are the nicknames he creates for a number of his rivals – such as Kamaru Usman, who he calls Marty Fake Newsman (or Snoozeman). 

He calls Jorge Masvidal – his last opponent in the UFC and also a former friend and sparring partner – ‘Street Judas’ as a play as on the American’s nickname ‘Street Jesus’. 

The eventual bad blood between the two culminated in an out-of-octagon alleged assault by Masvidal outside a Miami Beach steakhouse three weeks after the pair fought in a mixed martial arts bout.

Masvidal was hit with felony charges but those were later reduced to misdemeanour aggravated assault. 

Another of Covington’s most controversial comments was about UFC legend Matt Hughes who suffered a near-death train accident. His injuries have caused lifelong complications and Covington made light of it, saying: ‘Let us talk about the lesson we learned tonight. 

‘It was a strong lesson that Robbie (Lawler) should have learned from his good buddy Matt Hughes. You stay off the tracks when the train is coming through, junior. Does not matter if it is the Trump train or the Colby train, get out of the way. 

Covington suffered a broken tooth after being ‘sucker punched’ twice by Masvidal, police told Fox Sports. He was also hit in the eye 

The two UFC fighters are no strangers to one another, with Covington (right) recording a lopsided unanimous decision over Masvidal (left) on March 5 at UFC 272 in Las Vegas

Aside from his controversial persona and his hostility towards the rest of the UFC roster, Covington is perhaps best known for his ties to Donald Trump. He wore a flashy white suit to media day in Las Vegas on Wednesday with the former president’s image on the back and a signed section at the bottom. 

They both live in Florida and Covington regularly visits Trump in his Mar a Lago mansion for dinners and events.

Throughout Trump’s campaign, which began in 2017, Covington would regularly be pictured in Make America Great Again hats and proudly advocate for the 77-year-old’s policies.

He’s also previously made claims that he’s ‘the great American winning machine. I’m addicted to winning, just like Trump’ and has referred to the former president as ‘America’s champion.’ 

He’s regularly been pictured alongside Trump and even confirmed that the 45th president of the United States will put the belt on him, if he dethrones Edwards at UFC 296. 

During pre-fight press conference on Wednesday, Covington, dressed in a white suit with Trump’s face on the back and signed by the ex-president, said: ‘Dana didn’t let me walk out with Trump, logistically it is too tough. 

‘He said there would be 100 secret service with him and just too much chaos. He’ll be sitting by the cage and I’ll give him a hug before I go in the Octagon.’

Covington, who feels he was unfairly denied the belt in losing against Kamaru Usman twice, compared his career to Trump’s after the 77-year-old’s insistence he was robbed of the last election. 

Covington has often been pictured with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat at press events

Prior to UFC 296, Covington showed off his Donald Trump-inspired suit at UFC Apex

This post from August 2018 marks the first time that Covington met with the former President

He went on: ‘It is the same path as Trump. We’ve been cheated out of titles. We can be delayed but not denied. Saturday will determine the best in the world. Donald Trump will wrap the belt around me if I win.

‘I’ll make the welterweight division great again. If Trump doesn’t get re-elected, this country is done.’

His controversial comments haven’t stopped there and he ensured he remained in the headlines again by making vile comments towards his upcoming opponent Edwards over the death of his father, who died when the Brit was just 13 after being shot in a nightclub. 

‘I’m bringing you to the seventh layer of hell,’ Trump-supporting Covington told Edwards, before adding: ‘We’ll say “what’s up” to your dad while we’re there.’

Edwards’ demeanor quickly changed and he threw a water bottle at his rival, who was wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, as well as fancy dress as George Washington. 

Covington enraged Edwards this week after referencing his late father’s death when he was a teenager

The bottle struck Covington, leading to both fighters immediately standing up to confront each other before security stepped in to separate them. 

Covington then continued: ‘Little f*****g p***y. Ultimate Feeling champion – he isn’t an Ultimate Fighting champion. Better get the tissues ready.’ 

At this point, it’s clear to see why he draws controversy wherever he goes, but it’s fair to say that Covington also draws interest for entirely different reasons. 

Prior to fights – whether he’s involved in them or not – Covington is regularly seen with bikini-clad women and proudly shares pictures and videos with them onto his social media. 

In the videos, the women will rarely speak and, instead, will stand in the bikinis as Covington addresses his followers and previews the upcoming fights. 

However, when he visited London back in March after weighing in as the back-up fighter to Edwards’ fight with Usman, his voiced his displeasure with British women. 

Speaking at a press conference, he said: ‘I can’t say this has been a welcome place. The food sucks, the weather sucks, the girls definitely suck but I mean, I do come from Miami, I’m the king of Miami.. It hasn’t been an enjoyable trip’.

Covington regularly shares videos of himself with bikini-clad women onto social media

He typically starts his videos, where he is accompanied by models, by saying ‘Greetings nerds and virgins’

The self-proclaimed ‘King of Miami’ pictured with six models on a boat

Looking at his reputation inside the octagon, the American boasts a 17-3 professional MMA record – with 15 of those fights coming in the UFC. His three defeats have come against Usman twice and Warlley Alves.

While Covington is rarely praised for his technique and finesse, the 35-year-old boasts incredible cardio – which many have tipped to be his secret weapon in the bout. 

His tireless attitude coupled with his immense power makes him a tricky customer for any welterweight candidate – with Edwards the latest to try his luck. 

Stats also show that Covington lands 70 per cent of his strikes to the head of his opponent, as he looks to increase his wins via KO from four. 

The fight game has always been an entertainment business and Covington is perfectly willing to rub people up the wrong way if it makes they more likely to watch. 

‘They come to watch me win, or they come to watch me get knocked out – either way I’m getting paid’, Floyd Mayweather once said. 

Nobody understands the danger of indifference better than Covington in the MMA world but ultimately, all his pantomime villainy disappears the moment the octagon door swings shut. 

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