I’ll start by saying that I have never been of the opinion that welterweight was ever in trouble of being anything other than great. It doesn’t take much more than a look back at the history of the division and former champions such as Pat Miletich, Prime B.J Penn, Georges St-Pierre and Robbie Lawler to name but a few to realise this is a division that has always been exciting. That is not what recently appointed interim champion (or undisputed champion if you ask him) Colby Covington would have you believe though.
It has been said loudly and frequently however that current belt holder Tyron Woodley is “holding up the division” a term which has grown in popularity recently and has been used to describe title holders (think Conor McGregor) avoiding fighting the most dangerous or high ranked opponents in order to pursue other ventures while still maintaining that champion status.
There are no antagonists crying these claims louder than new interim champion Covington, who defeated Rafael Dos Anjos by decision at UFC 225 this past weekend. What we need to investigate is if his claims hold any actual value. Woodley was last seen gracing the Octagon less than a year ago at UFC 214 (29th July 2017) where he defeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu phenom Demian Maia by unanimous decision, a feat that was replicated by Covington later the same year. Since then Covington has tried to call out Woodley repeatedly post-fight but until now has been fairly unsuccessful.
Are you guys really going to edge this idiot on? This is why our sport is becoming a joke. He just got out struck by a BJJ guy ?
— Tyron T-Wood Woodley (@TWooodley) October 29, 2017
Woodley has until recently been chasing after GSP for a title fight (and whopping big payday) at 170lbs after GSP defeated Michael Bisping to gain the 185lbs belt which he then later vacated due to ongoing health issues. Although this would be an exciting fight of perhaps two of the best wrestlers to grace the welterweight division it seems unlikely to materialise in the foreseeable future. Following the most recent victory of Covington, Woodley (who is never without something to say) released this on twitter:
— Tyron T-Wood Woodley (@TWooodley) June 10, 2018
The following morning Woodley conveyed further through an Instagram story his hatred for Covington and his displeasure at having the same training camp at American Top Team in Florida.
“I ain’t never in my life, I ain’t never in my career, I ain’t never in my existence as an adult human being wanted to fuck somebody up so bad, beat somebody so bad, embarrass somebody so bad, end his career so bad, take his life so bad — and I don’t even say that figuratively, Literally, I’m gonna try to hurt him so fucking bad they’re never gonna want to let me fight in the UFC again, that’s a fact”
So when does it all kick off? Previously Woodley had spoken about wanting to fight at UFC 227 in Los Angeles in August an event that is currently headlined by TJ Dillashaw Vs. Cody Garbrandt 2, Woodley believe that this will be enough time to have fully rehab his shoulder after having quite recently undergone surgery. Covington, on the other hand, suggested that his next fight would likely be at Madison Square Garden in November and after having gone the distance with Dos Anjos it seems unlikely he would be willing to accept another bout as soon as August, especially when you take into account the amount of time and preparation he will need in order to meet the president of the United States who he appears to be ever so fond of.
Melted that soy boy and made the welterweight division great again! Next stop for this gold belt, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with President @realDonaldTrump! #ufc225 #nerdbash2018 #maga pic.twitter.com/QFPK3dMbDr
— Colby Covington (@ColbyCovMMA) June 10, 2018
I believe that this could be a very interesting matchup with two very skilful wrestlers who know the ins and outs of each others fighting styles. With wrestling traits that may nullify against each other, it may provide an opportunity for a more exciting fight which is something that Woodley is in fairly dire need of. Furthermore, it could allow Woodley to step out of the heel role he has been often portrayed in and develop a fan base around the disdain a majority of fans have for Covington, self-inflicted through his rather brash arrogance and fairly cringeworthy trash talk.