If over the course of a few years, you get a boomerang thrown at you, get pelted with a deluge of trash, get attacked in a buffet line and then socked in the jaw at a steak house, it might be time to consider that you’re the problem and not the people who are trying to do you bodily harm. That’s the spot Colby Covington finds himself in these days.
Covington’s problems can be traced back to a specific date and incident. That date was October 28, 2017. The incident was his post-fight speech in front of more than 10,260 fans inside Brazil’s Ginásio do Ibirapuera.
After putting a beating on Demian Maia in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 119, Covington verbally attacked the event’s host country, “Brazil, you’re a dump!” Covington shouted into the mic. “All you filthy animals suck.”
On his way to the dressing room, the crowd showed its disapproval by booing Covington and throwing trash at him as arena personnel tried to hustle him backstage.
Less than a month later, Brazilian fighter, and former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum ran into Covington in Sydney, Australia. A video, shot by UFC fighter Dan Hooker, caught the two exchanging words before Werdum threw a boomerang, which was in a plastic bag, at Covington.
The brief speech he made after the Maia win marked a turning point in Covington’s career. From that point on, he adopted an abrasive persona that drew the ire of fans and fighters alike.
After he defeated Tyron Woodley at UFC Vegas 11, Covington said that Woodley, in his support of Black Lives Matter, was “standing up for lifelong criminals.” Covington also took shots at Kamaru Usman, who was born in Africa, saying, “Who did you get a call from? Did you get a call from, freaking, your little tribe? Did they give you some smoke signals for you?”
UFC fighter Sijara Eubanks called Covington’s remarks “flat-out racist. It was racist. It was disgusting.”
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya said, “This guy has directly insulted my culture, my brother and many other cultures, and no one says anything,”
Meanwhile UFC president Dana White downplayed Covington’s remarks when asked about them.
“I don’t know if I heard anything racist that [Colby Covington] said,” said White.
It seemed as if Covington had taken notes on the persona Chael Sonnen created during his UFC run and decided he was going to dive deeper into the muck.
Where some were able to forgive — or deny — Sonnen’s indiscretions because he employed charisma and humor while delivering his “trash talk,” Covington performed his shtick with the type of meanness, anger and vitriol that left him no way to wiggle himself out from under the weight of his words.
In the lead up to his fight with former friend and teammate Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272, Covington took things even lower.
“The only people that are in critical condition on Sunday are his (Masvidal’s) kids. He turned his back on them. He doesn’t want to own up and be the dad that he should be to them. He’s a deadbeat dad. He’s a deadbeat person. He’s just going to be plain dead on Saturday night on pay-per-view,” said Covington during UFC 272 media day.
Masvidal addressed Covington’s words during his own media day appearance, “For many reasons I want to hurt this guy like I’ve never hurt anyone before. One, he’s talking about my kids. Kids, religion, people’s wives. I think that’s beneath us. Let other sports do that. We don’t need to do that… If you want to talk about me, I get that, but what do my kids have to do with that?”
Covington won the fight, but Masvidal was not willing to forgive or forget the personal nature of Covington’s remarks. Things came to a head earlier this week when Masvidal reportedly attacked Covington at a Miami restaurant.
I will surely not defend what Masvidal did (or Werdum, or Ali Abdelaziz), but I will also say Covington is not without blame in this situation. Words and actions can have repercussions. I’m not saying Covington can’t say the things he says or act the way he acts, but he can’t be surprised when people react and take extreme offense to pointed and personal attacks.
The entire situation reminds me of something Henry Rollins once said about growing up in the punk rock scene in Washington DC in the 1980’s. Rollins’ point was that it’s a small world and that if you talk crazy about someone, you should know that you could — and probably will — run into that person at some point and they might want to “discuss” what you said using nonverbal means. Because of that, one should try to be careful with their words.
Masvidal, like Werdum and Abdelaziz, delivered a message to Covington. Time will tell if Covington, following his reported assault from Masvidal, finally got the point. I’m not holding out any hope.