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Chael Sonnen: Colby Covington’s act ‘is going to reinvent the sport’

Former UFC star Chael Sonnen believes that the antics of Colby Covington are interesting and “clearly working.”

UFC Singapore Fight Night Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington is one of the more controversial figures in the sport. Many of his detractors consider his act to be completely obnoxious, but it seems as if Covington is more than happy to hear the boos from the fans.

Chael Sonnen, one of the most successful “villains” in UFC history, sees things differently when it comes to Covington’s antics. As he told The MMA Hour’s Luke Thomas, he thinks Covington’s methods are going to have a major impact on the sport.

“In many ways, he’s going to reinvent the sport,” Sonnen said (via MMA Fighting). “Is that for better or worse? Time will tell, and then you can decide. But people are going to start copying him. He’s the first guy ever to come out and say, ‘I’m just here to entertain you.’ So, yes, it’s an act, and yes, it’s a performance, but here it is and you guys seem to enjoy it. He’s the first guy. The only guy who ever did that in wrestling was The Rock. Everybody else stayed in character and held the old kayfabe montage.

“But he’s the first guy to come out and go, ‘Look, I’m just looking to entertain you. If the UFC isn’t going to bring me cameras, I’ll hire my own production crew, I’ll pay them, but I’m going to get this content recorded and out to the masses.’

“They’re scripted promos,” Sonnen continued. “He’ll admit they’re scripted promos — another thing that only The Rock would do, nobody else would ever admit to. And I think that he’s having fun. Now, I’ve known him since he was 11 years old — it’s going to be very hard for him to do anything that upsets me, because I just understand it a little bit differently. But I do think we’re going to see guys start to copy him. I think he’s an innovator in many ways. And again, is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’ll find out. But he does get credit, from me at least, for coming in and changing it. He is the first guy I’ve ever seen who has hired his own camera companies to come and go, ‘Hey UFC, you’re not going to do this for me? Great, no problem. I got some money, I’ll make a phone call. I’ll set the shot up myself.’ I think it’s interesting and it’s clearly working.”

Much like Chael did during his heyday, Covington has made it a point to antagonize Brazilians. Last October, when Covington beat Demian Maia in Sao Paulo, fans booed and hurled trash towards him after he called Brazil a “dump” and said the people were “filthy animals.”

Covington has since taken things a step further, criticizing the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles for not wanting to go to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump, who then cancelled on the Eagles when it was clear most weren’t going to attend. He even declared that he was going to bring his UFC interim belt and “put it on Trump’s desk.” Dana White did say that he can make such a thing happen, given his personal connection to Trump.

Colby defeated Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC 225 co-main event, with the pay-per-view doing an estimated 250,000 buys. His next fight will be against Tyron Woodley at a date TBD, with the chance to draw even more ire and create more heated confrontations. While Covington doesn’t have the numbers to prove that he’s much of a draw, Chael is confident that Covington’s moves are paying off.

“I don’t know [why people say it’s not working],” Sonnen said. “You’ll hear that. That is one of the stages of this. I remember going through it too, and I had some advice from ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who said, ‘Hey, over time, they’re going to love you for the same stuff they hate you for today.’ And, sure enough, if I wasn’t delivering vitriol at times, they were disappointed. The same stuff that they hated me for. And just what Roddy Piper had told me, turned out to be true. So, fans aren’t always going to recognize it. “

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