An interim title, six straight wins and a post-fight callout for the ages at UFC 225 is all it took for Colby Covington to get UFC champion Tyron Woodley’s attention.
Brace yourselves, MMA fans, things are about to get nuclear in the welterweight division.
A blow-up isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a division that has struggled to maintain the same buzz since it was marooned by Georges St-Pierre five years ago. That isn’t to say there haven’t been great fights along the way to whet the appetites of fans since the former champ’s departure.
Who could ever forget Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler putting the game of Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em Robots to shame with their brutal championship encounters? What about the bloody (and gross) Fight of the Year slugfest between Lawler and Rory MacDonald? There was also Woodley’s scintillating, Fight of the Night performance against Stephen Thompson in the UFC’s debut at Madison Square Garden.
Each of these are among the all-time great championship fights at 170 pounds, but none quite raised the bar from strictly a marquee perspective as a St-Pierre headliner.
That could soon change once the UFC begins the Woodley vs. Covington press tour.
“This is the real championship belt,” Covington told UFC commentator Joe Rogan in a post-fight interview at UFC 225, after his win over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. “I’m going to do what a real American should do. I’m bringing this belt to the White House and I’m putting it on Donald Trump’s desk. …Tyron Woodley, you’re a freaking coward. Why’d you let this little filthy animal take this ass-whooping tonight? This was supposed to be you. You can’t run and you can’t hide no more.”
Covington’s explosive callout led to an equally explosive response from the champ.
“Here’s the thing, he’s not on my level,” Woodley said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “He never will be on my level. But now he’s to the point where it’s almost like my duty as a martial artist to f*ck him up… I don’t want him to ever fight again. Like, I wouldn’t care if he didn’t make it out of the Octagon — and I’m dead-ass serious about that.”
Those are fighting words.
Imagine the level of intensity when Woodley and Covington are in the same room together, sitting side-by-side and eventually standing face-to-face. The UFC could be on the verge of the most anticipated welterweight scrap since St-Pierre was running down to the Octagon in his karate gi to fight Hendricks.
Perhaps Woodley will finally be able to put eyes back on the division with a dance partner as rambunctious as Covington. History has taught us that the right feuds can transform mere stars into superstars.
Anderson Silva might have been considered one of the greatest fighters of all time, but his star status never truly took form until Chael Sonnen stepped to the microphone. Chuck Liddell was running through a murderer’s row of legends, but it was his feud with Tito Ortiz that put him on the path of being one of the most beloved fighters in MMA history.
A more current example is the triangular feud between Dominick Cruz, T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, which has suddenly turned the bantamweight division into one of the UFC’s marquee weight classes.
The same possibilities lie on the horizon for the welterweight division, as long as the UFC puts its full marketing weight behind Woodley and Covington. Spotlighting the feud with intense promotional videos and side-by-side interviews on mainstream sports outlets could quickly elevate the fight to blockbuster status.
There’s also the fiery juxtaposition between political views that could ultimately drag even more eyes to the bout. Both fighters haven’t shied away from their beliefs in a heated climate where sports and politics are suddenly becoming intertwined.
This fight not only has the ability to crush the longstanding beef between the top welterweights in the world, but it could pave the way towards superstardom for both men. Covington, the mouthy contender with a bite as deadly as his bark, could validate his meteoric rise by upending quite possibly the best welterweight champion since St-Pierre.
And Woodley, the underappreciated 170-pound king, might finally inherit the spotlight left behind by an all-time great predecessor that retired before passing the torch.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/15/2018This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM