Colby Covington is rapidly becoming the most hated athlete in the United States… he created a Donald Trump-loving ‘persona’ out of desperation to save his UFC career but it has morphed into something far more sinister
- Colby Covington is one of the most divisive, controversial fighters in UFC history
- American decided to create a persona that would demand attention from fans
- But 32-year-old’s provocations have now crossed a line into overt racism
- Covington was condemned by fellow fighters and Reebok distanced themselves
Colby Covington believes yelling at a Brazilian crowd, calling them ‘filthy animals’, saved his UFC career.
It was on that night in front of a furiously partisan crowd in Sau Paulo three years ago that the American’s new ‘persona’ was born and he has since become one of the most divisive, controversial and hated athletes in the United States.
He claims that the UFC were planning on severing ties with him. They found him too boring, a feeble performer outside of the cage and forgettable inside it.
Colby Covington is fast becoming one of the most hated athletes in the United States
Covington has met with President Donald Trump on many occasions and is a huge supporter
The UFC welterweight contender surrounds himself with bikini-clad women for photo shoots
So he says he was forced to play a character. One who has always walked the line between unsavoury and offensive, but has now morphed into something far more sinister.
For the most part, Covington’s alter-ego as a Donald Trump-loving patriot has been laughed off and dismissed by his fellow UFC fighters, even in the most painfully fraught era in American politics.
But all that changed at the weekend. On Sunday he fought and beat Tyron Woodley, an African American former UFC welterweight champion, who is a vocal advocate of the BLM movement and answered ‘Black Lives Matter’ to every question at a press conference last week.
Covington lambasted him as a communist and Marxist, before describing people involved in the movement for racial justice as terrorists and criminals.
He posted a picture on his Instagram of himself smirking in a baseball cap, writing: ‘The face I make when I’m ready to give a domestic terrorist sympathiser a hard lesson in American resolve.’
Covington beat Tyron Woodley at the weekend but his victory was overshadowed
Covington was criticised for being racist towards welterweight champion Kamaru Usman
And in the aftermath of Covington’s win, he was interviewed by current champion Kamaru Usman, who is Nigerian-American and beat Covington, breaking his jaw, when they clashed last December.
Usman was asking about the congratulatory phone call between Covington and Trump on Sunday night in his role as ESPN analyst.
Covington retorted: ‘Who did you get a call from? You get a call from, frickin’, your little tribe? They give you some smoke signals for you? You’re a joke . . . You’re fake news.’
Incidentally, on the call itself. Covington said: ‘Thank you so much Mr President, you gave me the dragon energy after shaking your hand on Sunday at your rally. It doesn’t matter if King Kong was in front of me, I was not going to lose after getting to shake your hand.’
He also singled out NBA star LeBron James: ‘First responders, you keep us safe, not these woke athletes.
‘I’m sick of these woke athletes and these spineless cowards like LeBron James.’ He later tweeted: ‘LOL at the snowflakes that believe LeBron James could even last 10 seconds with me!’
Covington has created a persona where he views himself as an all-American patriot
Since then the UFC’s major sponsor, Reebok, delivered this statement: ‘Reebok is the uniform provider for the UFC, however we do not sponsor Colby Covington. We do not agree with the sentiments he expressed, and stand firm in our belief that Black lives matter. We stand with athletes and communities who are fighting for change.’
Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya said: ‘This guy has directly insulted my culture, my brother and many other cultures, and no one says anything. But it just shows you a mirror. Shows you a mirror to you guys.’
And Bantamweight Sijara Eubanks told ESPN: ‘It wasn’t ‘unfortunate.’ It was flat-out racist. It was racist. It was disgusting. It was quite frankly disappointing.’
Perhaps Adesanya’s referral to ‘nobody saying anything’ was a thinly veiled dig at the UFC’s own refusal to condemn Covington’s language.
The organisation’s president Dana White said: ‘These guys all have their own causes, things – all their own beliefs.
The 32-year-old’s words have been condemned by fellow fighters but not the UFC
The welterweight claims he would have been cut by the UFC so had to create a persona
‘We don’t muzzle anybody here. We let everybody speak their mind. I don’t know what he said that was racist. I don’t know if I heard anything racist that he said. I don’t know.’
White himself is a supporter of Trump and has spoken at a rally for the president previously.
Bizarrely, Covington has been willing let the mask slip on occasion, explaining why he felt pushed to create his persona.
In an interview with Candace Owen, he admitted: ‘I’ve never told this story before. Three fights ago before I fought the No 2 guy in the world, this guy name is Demian Maia in Brazil. They [UFC] told my manager Dan Lambert, they weren’t gonna re-sign me.
‘They didn’t like my style, they didn’t like that I wasn’t entertaining. This was before I really started to become an entertainer and understand the entertainment aspect of this business.’
‘I’m getting paid $30,000 to go fight the number two guy in the world. After you pay taxes and pay your coaches you’re really going to get $5000 or $10,000.’
Covington, pictured here reading Donald Trump Jr’s book, wearing a signed cap
He ensures the American flag is never far away and is one of the most divisive fighters in MMA
‘I go out there and beat [Demian Maia] up and leave him in a pool of his own blood in his home city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I shoot this promo on the Brazilians and say, “You are all a bunch of filthy animals and Brazil you are a dump”. That promo went so viral on the internet that UFC was like, ‘we have to keep him, we have to re-sign him because that promo is so big.
‘That was what saved my career, that was a turning point in my career, and the rest has been history.’
And when asked on BT Sport how it affected his personal relationships, the 32-year-old was equally candid.
‘They don’t realise that I am doing it to monetise and doing it for business,’ he said.
‘Really, if anything, it just shows me who is real and what’s true and the people that really stepped by my side and understand what I am doing those are the people that only matter to me. I don’t care about the other people.’
And if there were any lingering doubts about the switch Covington flicks to turn on this character, then an anecdote from former UFC fighter turned podcaster and comedian Brendan Schaub leaves little doubt about the illusion he wants to create.
Despite the image that Covington portrays, the mask has slipped before in interviews
Covington had hired a number of bikini-clad women to surround him while Schaub chatted to him for his Food Truck Diaries show.
Schaub explained: ‘They don’t know who he is, they hate being there. So we are in the back and he (Covington) goes “Uhh!! you know what would be cool is while I am talking to Brendan can one of you rub my shoulders.”
‘They said, “I am not rubbing your f****** shoulders.’
‘He (Covington) goes nothing? She goes ‘F*** no’. He (Covington) goes ‘that’s cool, alright.’
Of course, the line between Covington’s genuine beliefs and the ones he roars into a microphone is blurred.
He appears to have a real affection for the president and conviction in spewing venom towards those with opposing beliefs, but it could all just be rehearsed in front of the mirror.
Combat sports have always been driven by a narrative and fighters who can create their own. Generating hype, rivalry and soap opera inevitably see their careers fast-tracked and bank balances boosted.
Alongside this Instagram post, Covington wrote: ‘The face I make when I’m ready to give a domestic terrorist sympathiser a hard lesson in American resolve.’
Covington is enjoying the fruits of his labour now and his thespian work in public sells far more tickets and pay-per-views than the colourless personality of before, even if the vast majority of the attention is negative.
But he is a world class fighter in his own right and exciting to watch. ‘Chaos’ even holds the record for the most strikes landed in a UFC fight (541 against Robbie Lawler).
Fighting ability alone should be enough to see him remain one of the sport’s biggest stars without the toxic fuel he adds to the fire.
Racism and anything close to it shames both him and the UFC. The manufactured persona may have saved his career but if he fails to muzzle himself, it may end up costing it.
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