Colby Covington was anticipating a faceoff with opponent Tyron Woodley on Thursday, but ahead of the UFC Vegas 11 press conference, he was informed they’d no longer share the stage together.
“I thought I’d be able to get in his head, play some mind games,” Covington said about a planned showdown. “See him face-to-face, look that coward in the eyes after we did the press conference.”
A late change was made to the media gathering in Las Vegas. Originally touted as a showdown between Covington and Woodley before they clashed on Saturday night, six fighters from the preliminary card instead appeared on stage together before Covington and Woodley were brought out separately to answer questions from the media.
Prior to Covington’s time, Woodley showed up wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt and a hat fashioned to look like those worn by President Donald Trump’s supporters that said “Make Racists Catch the Fade Again.” Woodley then answered every question with some variation of Black Lives Matter before leaving the stage.
UFC President Dana White claimed the change was made so the promotion could highlight the fights on the undercard, but Covington wasn’t buying it.
“I would think that Tyron asked not to engage with me in person,” he said. “He’s doing his little thing; he’s trying to copy what I do. He’s wearing some hat that says whatever it said, ‘Make Racists Fade Again,’ but the only person catching a fade is Tyron Woodley on Saturday night. He’s the only one that’s racist.
“The only race there is in this fight is the race to get him out of the UFC.”
Despite a heated rivalry between the former teammates that goes back several years, Covington has been remarkably subdued in the days leading up to his fight with Woodley.
Typically, the former All-American wrestler is outspoken about every opponent he faces. And in the past, he’s been that way for an opponent he’s shown so much disdain toward. But Covington says he’s just not paying that much attention to Woodley ahead of Saturday night.
“I just would say that I’ve got better things to do,” Covington said. “I was planning speeches to hang out with the president and attend his rally. I’m doing bigger things these days.
“I’m not really worried about anything Tyron does. The only thing that I’m going to be worried about is if he tries to rap in that octagon.”
If there were head games played head of UFC Vegas 11 it might have been Woodley taking the biggest swipe after welcoming Jorge Masvidal into his training camp as he prepared for Covington.
All three fighters previously represented American Top Team based out of Florida but Covington split with the gym following a contentious relationship with several of his former training partners including Masvidal.
That said, if Woodley was trying to play mental warfare by touting Masvidal’s help ahead of their fight, Covington didn’t seem impressed.
“I thought that was a great game plan for Tyron Woodley to bring a guy I used to beat up everyday so he could learn how to lose to me,” Covington stated. “The only thing they were game-planning is how they were going to pay their alimony payments.”
If all goes well for Covington at UFC Vegas 11, he would immediately put himself back into title contention after falling to welterweight king Kamaru Usman by fifth-round TKO this past December.
A win over Woodley could potentially earn Covington another shot at Usman after they engaged in a back-and-forth battle through every round prior to the finish. Then again, Covington could be positioned to settle the score with Masvidal instead, which could also net him a hefty payday.
“That’s a tough one to ask cause both those guys are going to get it,” Covington said. “It doesn’t matter in which order it goes. It could ‘Marty Fakenewsman’ first or ‘Street Judas’ Masvidal, but they both will get it unless they’re both cowards and tuck their heads between their tails and run off.
“Those are the only two fights I’m looking for after I end Tyron Woodley’s career on Saturday night on ESPN.”