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Colby Covington rides gimmick to title shot at UFC 245

Updated December 13, 2019 - 6:29 pm

Top UFC welterweight contender Colby Covington has drawn a great deal of hate and criticism for the Donald Trump-loving, snowflake-decrying, nerd-pounding gimmick he created to make himself more marketable.

Some of it has come from his own house.

“I remember after the fight in Brazil, my mom and dad were screaming at me saying, ‘You put our whole family in jeopardy. They’re going to come after us. What are you doing? Come on, Colby,’” Covington said of the first time he unveiled his character by getting on the mic and calling the nation a “dump” and the spectators “filthy animals.”

He soothed the tensions at home by explaining there was a method to his madness. Covington was a successful fighter who had yet to make a mark in the UFC and was told that he would be released after that 2017 fight against Demian Maia in Brazil because he didn’t move the needle.

So he decided to borrow from a brief stint he had in pro wrestling and go full heel. He was rewarded with a new contract.

“I was like, ‘Mom, I’m doing business. What are you mad at? I’m trying to make a better life for you. I’m trying to get you out of the trailer parks,’” Covington told her. “I want to give my family a better life, and that’s what this is all about, is creating a better future for my family.

“They get it now. My mom lives in a big place in Tennessee. My dad lives in an amazing place in Oregon, and I help them out as much as I can.”

The over-the-top character has helped Covington’s career take off. He will headline his third straight card Saturday when he challenges Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title in the main event of UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena.

Covington has visited President Trump in the White House and been the subject of tweets from Trump and his family.

The 31-year-old showed up to several media appearances this week with a Trump 2020 hat and Donald Trump Jr.’s book “Triggered,” but he appeared caught off guard by questions about the themes of the book.

“The MMA community is a bunch of liberal snowflakes. I’m not worried about those crybabies,” Covington said. “I fight for the troops, and I fight for the Trumps. That’s my motivation going forward. Marty Fake Newsman is saying he’s more American than me. What’s more American than me? My family served for this country in the Korean War and Vietnam War. What’s his family ever served in besides the penitentiary?”

Such quotes have become commonplace for Covington in the past two years, but he briefly slipped out of character this week as he steps into the biggest spotlight of his career. Usman sees the fact that Covington would even explain the origins of his act as fear.

“He knows what’s happening on Saturday,” Usman said. “He’s trying to find an exit. He’s like, ‘Hey, guys, don’t hate me when I get killed on Saturday. I was just putting on an act to entertain you.’ No. If you’re about that life, you have to stay about it. You have a man that’s already defeated mentally looking for a way out.”

Usman said he has been overwhelmed by fans and fighters, even some on Covington’s team, pleading with him to punish Covington for the nonsense.

Amanda Nunes, a Brazilian gym-mate of Covington who will defend her women’s bantamweight title on the card, stopped short of admitting she was one of them.

“Honestly, the gym is so big,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even know everyone there. I don’t know anything about his life. Whatever he does, he’ll pay for. We all pay for what we do in life.”

Usman, whose family immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when he was 8, said he’s been OK with the gimmick, even the racist comments.

“I’m glad he’s made this fight what it is,” Usman said of the hype. “It’s great to have the challenger do all the work for you. I’m sitting up here with this gold behind me. I don’t have to do all that stuff. This belt speaks for itself. I understand we have to be entertainers, but my job is to step in there and entertain you with my skill. I don’t have to do that gimmick. He had to do it to get here. I don’t.”

The bout is one of three title fights on the pay-per-view card, which starts at 7 p.m.

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Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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