In the current welterweight landscape the most suitable and plausible opponent for champion Kamaru Usman is a rematch with rival Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington, arguably the toughest opponent Kamaru Usman has ever faced within the octagon. And yet the matchup appears to be the only potential bout that Usman is actively avoiding, seemingly ducking the battle-tested number one contender.
The pair first clashed at UFC 245 in December 2019, and the fight itself had many controversial and odd moments, with ‘Marty from Nebraska’ making use of various dirty tactics to survive his title defense against Covington. Colby had the champion hurt in the first round, and gasping for air in the second round before a kick by Covington to the lower abdomen was incorrectly identified as a groin shot. Marty gave an oscar-worthy performance, playing up the fantom low-blow, and was more than happy to take the time to recover. The most egregious moment of the entire fight however was in the last minute of the third round, which saw Covington nearly TKO the champion with a brilliant head kick that sent Usman reeling into the cage before calling his own time-out and getting saved by referee Marc Goddard. Yes, you read that correctly, calling his own TIME-OUT! It was the first and only time in MMA history in which a combatant actively called out his own time-out during a live fight and had the referee oblige him. Usman complained that Colby was guilty of an eye-poke to Usman’s RIGHT eye when in fact Colby had grazed the LEFT side of Usman’s face with a left cross (see video evidence below).
This was a turning point in the fight and had it not occurred, it’s safe to say Covington would have been walking away with the belt that night.
Kamaru Usman is now four weeks removed from his last title defense against Jorge Masvidal, who somehow got a rematch with the champion after a boring and lackluster first bout in Abu Dhabi, and the MMA community is left pondering why the highly anticipated rematch with Covington has not yet been announced. The vast majority of fans believe Usman’s next move is unmistakably clear: a rematch with Colby “Chaos” Covington, who was up on at least one judges’ scorecard before an early stoppage saved Usman from the judge’s decision and potentially losing his title.
The fight was one of the most exciting fights of the year, with Dana White referring to it as ‘one of the greatest fights’ he’d ever seen. Since then, Usman has had three successful title defenses, while Covington himself rebounded with a dominant win over former champion Tyron Woodley in their September 2020 clash. Yet it would seem that neither Usman nor his management team is keen on a rematch with the number one contender, a fighter who represented adversity and the toughest challenge Usman has ever faced.
During an interview with ESPN, Usman stated “I’m not going to say I don’t want the fight,” Usman said. “At the end of the day, what has [Covington] done to earn this? Your claim to fame can’t be, ‘I went five rounds [against Usman in a title fight in 2019] and the guy broke my jaw and finished the fight.'” Additionally, his manager Abdelaziz stated “Why not Michael Chiesa? Michael Chiesa has a four-fight winning streak. Why not Vicente Luque? He has a three-fight winning streak. Why not these guys? Why Colby? Because he goes around talking about people’s wives, people’s families and we have to reward him? This is what the sport has become?”
Well below Covington in the rankings are fighters who Usman already has defeated in dominant fashion (Burns, Masvidal and Leon Edwards) or who haven’t quite entered the conversation for title contention, such as Michael Chiesa or Vicente Luque. Although it seems clear who should be next for the champion, Usman continues to hide behind bravado while finding every excuse possible to avoid a rematch with the only fighter to successfully take a piece of his soul in their first meeting. Usman seems more comfortable and interested in bouts with lesser opponents, even hinting at a possible boxing matchup with YouTube personality Jake Paul.
Is all this verbal bobbing and weaving to avoid the number one contender lessening Usman’s legend as an all time dominant champion? Will this nonsense from Usman end or will he double down with his trolling and proclaim that his next fight should actually be against Oscar De La Hoya? It’s anyone’s guess at this time, what will come out of camp Marty.