LAS VEGAS — UFC 245’s welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Colby Covington has taken on a narrative that is bigger than two fighters competing for supremacy at 170 pounds. With Covington’s divisive, Donald Trump-supporting character being at odds with Usman, there has been a political spin added to the fight.
It’s a narrative that Usman, despite not being fond of Covington’s tactics, welcomes to his fight on Saturday night.
“I’m actually glad that he’s done that because there are a lot of things in this time that we live in that need to be brought to the forefront,” said Usman, who is a child of Nigerian immigrants. Although he’s admittedly “not a political person,” Usman understands that the fight is bigger than how he feels about Covington and is a representation of warring political ideologies duking it out inside of the Octagon.
Unfortunately, the air was let out of the hype balloon when a recent ESPN article revealed that Covington only created the character out of necessity in order to remain on the UFC roster. Although it has paid off in dividends for Covington as he’s become an attraction, the fact that Covington is only playing a role has been a letdown for Usman.
“He’s a studio gangster,” Usman told Sporting News. “I just can’t believe he admitted it.”
Usman reflected upon a time when he interacted with Covington at an airport not too long ago. He said that Covington was far from the confrontational man that stands before the UFC now. Instead, he was friendly and welcoming.
“He was so nice that he made me feel like a jerk,” Usman said with a laugh. “But then three weeks later he started running his mouth online again. That’s when I knew that it was a con. I just don’t really care for him and can’t wait to humble him.”
The build to the Dec. 14 clash has generated interest beyond hardcore MMA fans due to the political tensions in the United States manifesting inside of an eight-sided cage. And while Usman and Covington are proficient wrestlers who have applied their craft well during their respective UFC tenures, there’s nothing more that Usman wants than to knock his MAGA hat-wearing opponent out cold.
“I’ll give respect where respect is due, he can fight and I’m not a hater,” Usman said. “But once you step into that cage with this African lion, things change. The key to this fight is that I’m able to adapt to anything. If it comes down to striking, he doesn’t want that.”
Ultimately, Usman believes that Covington is now in too deep with the character he created and looking for a way out so he doesn’t lose fans in the event he comes up short against the champion at UFC 245.
“He absolutely does not believe in his own gimmick, which is why he has come out and told everybody that this isn’t the real him,” Usman said. “He’s looking for an exit so he can say, ‘Hey, don’t hate me when I get killed on Saturday because I was just putting on an act.’ If you are about that life, you have to stay about that life. That’s not him.”
When it’s all said and done, Usman is more than willing to shake the hand of his opponent out of respect because he sees through Covington’s gimmick. But he isn’t sure that his opponent will do the same should he manage to pull off what Usman says is “unthinkable.”
“If he loses, of course, he’ll have to shake my hand because he will be humbled,” Usman said. “When he eventually wakes up, he’ll have to. But if he wins, which I doubt, he won’t because it is a path for him to continue with the gimmick. But it’s my job to humble him and end this gimmick.”