Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
During Woodley’s reign atop the welterweight division from July 2016 to March 2019, Covington built his own winning streak to climb the rankings, and the public animosity between the two fighters grew along with their respective successes.
External factors separated them, with shoulder surgery knocking Woodley out of action for over one year after he successfully defended his title against Demian Maia at UFC 214. Covington won an interim title in his absence, but he missed out on a title shot Woodley when nasal surgery put him on the shelf ahead of UFC 228; Woodley eventually fought Darren Till as a backup.
Even though Covington got a world title fight against Kamaru Usman at UFC 245, and he forged a rivalry with former friend and teammate Jorge Masvidal, “Chaos” still laments the fact that he hasn’t stood across the octagon from Woodley.
“The only person that I’ve never been able to fight is Tyron Woodley,” Covington said on What the Heck. “He’s out there completely ducking me. He’s having midlife crises on Twitter. He’s over on the corner begging for change from the UFC, he’ll fight anybody, so he’s gonna fight a guy named ‘Dilbert.’”
The “Dilbert” Covington to whom derisively refers is welterweight contender Gilbert Burns, who’s expected to face Woodley on May 30. Woodley had said recently that if a fight between himself and Covington wasn’t made for UFC 249, he would move on from the matchup.
Covington, though, believes that the UFC lost faith in Woodley, and he puts the onus on the promotion for not following through with the matchup.
“To be honest, the real reason we didn’t get this fight is because the UFC didn’t want to give him the fight,” Covington said. “His last fight he looked so washed up, the UFC wants to see if he has anything left in the tank. They want to see if he can prove himself, to lose the losing, ass-whooping paycheck to me.
“This is a test by the UFC, they’re making him fight some kid named Dilbert. No one even knows who Dilbert is. So we’ll see if he passes that test and he can earn this ass-whooping, losing paycheck to me.”
The last three months of scheduled UFC events were upended by the outbreak of the coronavirus, leading to a shuffling of cards and fighters, including Woodley having a March 21 bout against Leon Edwards canceled. A blockbuster April 18 pay-per-view was supposed to be headlined by Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, but that event was eventually moved to May 9 and Justin Gaethje was tagged in for Nurmagomedov, who couldn’t leave Russia due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
When the UFC 249 headliner was still in flux, Covington thought he’d finally get to face off with Woodley.
“We were very close,” Covington said. “I thought we had the main event when Khabib and Tony Ferguson fell through. I thought for sure, 100 percent, I was gonna be the main event. But then that date got scrapped and they moved it to three weeks later to Jacksonville, and then they inserted Justin Gaethje with Tony Ferguson because they wanted to keep him there. After that happened, they already had their main events for the other two cards. I don’t know what happened. All I know is we’re still in negotiations with the UFC.”
Covington and Woodley are still at the top of the rankings, so a future fight between the two isn’t out of the question. Given the history between the two, Covington sees it as a natural rivalry with a widespread appeal.
He just wishes that they’d already done business.
“It’s a long-heated rivalry,” Covington said. ‘It sucks that it was never made before. I think the UFC really dropped the ball with it. It was a big fight. You’ve got the left and the right, you’ve got red and blue, liberal vs. republican. Everything, the backstory of us both training at ATT together, having a history together, him flying me out to training camps to beat him up before he got beat up by Rory MacDonald.
“He never wanted to fight me. I’m the first guy to ever scare the champion into elective surgery. Elective surgery. The guy was ready to fight Nate Diaz, some lightweight scrub wash-up, we know he’s ‘The Stockton Soy Boy.’ He was ready to fight him, but he won’t fight Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington when I had the real welterweight championship, the people’s championship, America’s championship, more importantly, Donald Trump’s favorite fighter. Tyron Woodley doesn’t want to fight, and the people know that, and we’re moving on from that.”