Colby Covington leaving American Top Team was brilliant



All the usual schtick was there: He accused Kamaru Usman of taking performance-enhancing drugs. He said the referee was biased against him. He took a shot at Democrats for rigging an election, blasted Jorge Masvidal for ducking him and on and on.

But in the midst of his tirades, Colby Covington made a statement that rings so true yet is largely overlooked.

Covington noted that since he faced Usman at UFC 245 in 2019 and lost by a late fifth-round TKO, he left the mega-gym, the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and wound up in a gym where the focus is solely on him.

Colby Covington Inc., he called it.

But it’s been a brilliant move for him and one that UFC president Dana White has frequently endorsed in the past.

“The one thing boxing has gotten right is the way guys do their training camps,” White told Yahoo Sports in 2019. “They hire a trainer and they build a camp and bring in partners and it’s all based around them. That’s how you get ready for a fight.”

On the backstretch of what is turning out to be the UFC’s best financial year in history, Covington will be in the biggest fight on the biggest show on Saturday when he challenges Usman in a rematch in the main event of UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden in New York for the welterweight title.

Covington, who once held the UFC’s interim welterweight title and brought the belt to the White House in a visit with former President Donald Trump, said one of the big differences in his game will be the individualized attention he’s been receiving.

“I changed everything up,” said Covington, who was doing very well with his boxing early in the first fight with Usman and was giving the champion all that he could handle and then some. “I left my old training camp I was at when I fought him. I hired and enlisted new training partners, new coaches, and I have a whole new program around me. Before, I was at a big gym and that was taking away from my development as a fighter.

“Now, I have a team that is fully focused on me. I’m at Colby Covington Incorporated and we’re just focused on my progress and my evolution as a fighter every day. We don’t care about other fighters. All we care about is me, and my success, and growing together as a team.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 19: Colby Covington poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC)

Colby Covington poses for a portrait after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at Apex on Sept. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC)

He’s hired Daniel Lopez, Jonathan Lopez, Daniel Valverde and Cesar Carneiro, and their task is to improve his skill level while also coming up with the perfect game plan.

His plan worked well against Usman, but when you’re fighting arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, that’s sometimes not enough.

But Covington — a +240 underdog at BetMGM — insists that though he got a raw deal the first time — his words — he’s made changes and improvements that will help him to defeat Usman and win the belt.

“I have a completely different game plan and [on Saturday], the world’s going to see,” Covington said. “I can’t give you a spoiler. Usually, I’m the king of spoilers and I end up telling people how the fight’s going to go. But this is like watching a movie. If you see the beginning of the movie, you don’t get the ending. You have to tune in, live on pay-per-view.”

The last time it was an epic battle and came down to Usman’s push in the waning moments of the fight. He dropped Covington twice with less than 90 seconds left and referee Marc Goddard stopped it with 50 seconds left as Usman was ground-and-pounding Covington.

Covington disagreed with the stoppage, instantly raising his hands in protest when Goddard halted it.

But that’s in the past now, and he has the benefit of knowing what he needs to do.

It was one of the great fights of recent times and required gut-check moments for both fighters.

“That might have been the best fight I’ve seen,” White said. “That was crazy.”

Covington’s change in training camp, with no offense to his former camp, could turn out to be the difference. Because now, he’s getting all of the attention all of the time and his coaches aren’t working with numerous other fighters who have bouts upcoming.

Covington’s great with the shtick, and whether you agree with it or not is a matter of opinion. But what’s not opinion is that he came very close to winning the belt the last time and made a significant change this time that could enhance his chances of getting his arm raised when the bout ends.


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