Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that has drastically evolved since its inception. Originally based on respect and discipline, the commercialization of the sport has given rise to one of its most controversial aspects: trash-talk.
Trash-talk is where the entertainment in any sport shines. Characters such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kevin Garnett and the great Muhammad Ali have capitalized on the psychological advantage that trash talk can produce. Trash-talking trailblazers in the UFC such as Chael Sonnen, Conor McGregor and even Covington himself with his satirical fighter nicknames, have shown that it is a tool that can be used to great marketable effect – especially in gaining the mental edge over one’s opponent. The problem? Trash-talk has no rules, limits or immediate repercussions – leading to the fiasco that we witnessed at the UFC 296 press conference.
Colby Covington, while known for his often disparaging digs at fighters (and their loved ones), hit a new low for the UFC last week. Even though most of his fans play it off as a “character”, who simply acts in a brash fashion to rouse the crowd and his opponents, for a company that worked tirelessly to showcase MMA as a sensible sport filled with intelligent and largely kind, everyday individuals, Covington’s comments have rekindled the old age stereotype against the UFC and MMA – a “sport” for the inhumane.
The press conference was truthfully a slap in the face to the principles of the sport and when coupled with Covington’s poor performance and refusal to accept the loss post the event, serves to befit a man whose legacy will forever be highlighted by falling short 3 times on the biggest stage.
However, Colby’s remark of dragging Leon to the “7th layer of Hell” to say “what’s up” to his deceased father, will forever be a stain on the pure nature of martial arts and hopefully is not a reflection of what the future holds in store for the world of combat sports.