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Hot Tweets: Colby Covington’s remarks and UFC 253

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This week, Colby Covington said some stuff, Dana White tried desperately to ignore it, and then people got mad. Oh, and also, it’s finally time for UFC 253, so let’s talk about all that.

Colby Covington’s Comments

In case you missed it, Colby Covington got all racist following his win last weekend, referencing welterweight champion Kamaru Usman’s “tribe” and then calling Tyron Woodley a “terrorist” for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Shocker, I know. And following that, in an even more unlikely twist of fate, UFC President Dana White defended Covington’s right to say what he wished and questioned whether Covington’s statements were racist at all. Truly, it was a week of unprecedented happenings in the UFC, and one that will surely bring about wholesale changes to the organization.

Yeah, right.

Look man, this is the sport we chose and these people are who they have been telling us they are this whole time. None of this is new. Covington has been saying racist, xenophobic garbage for years now, dating back to when he called Brazilian’s “filthy animals”. Covington credits that speech with saving his UFC career, for Christ’s sake. Of course he is going to keep doing it and, if Colby’s words are true, then Dana then not only tolerated it but actively endorsed it by re-signing Covington. Again, none of this is new and the same thing that happened last time will happen this time: nothing. People will be mad about it, justifiably, but the wheels will keep turning and it’ll go away until the next time dons he a red MAGA hat and spews some more drivel to stay relevant.

And the reality is, that’s a crying shame. I’m completely fine with Covington promoting his political agenda (I imagine you can suss out how I feel about his particular views but I’m firmly of the opinion that “sticking to sports” is moronic) but I’m not okay with him, or anyone, spewing bigoted bullsh*t. You want to stand up and talk to the President, decry the Black Lives Matter movement, and throw out the word Marxist like a slur, go for it! You have a platform and the right to say what you want, and if the UFC were to curtail that, it would be cowardly (not illegal though, you buffoons who don’t understand how free speech works), but when you start using xenophobic rhetoric and talking about tribes to an African-American fighter, promptly leave. The UFC shouldn’t allow that anymore than they wouldn’t allow someone to shout “Sieg Hiel” in a post-fight interview.

By not condemning Covington’s words, and even disputing the racially charged nature of them, the UFC is condoning his actions. Just try to imagine this happening in any other sport on broadcast television. It would be a full-scale media frenzy for weeks, including multiple public apologies from everyone even remotely involved in it. Instead, Dana just hand-waves it off and the news cycle moves on.

At this point, we have to mention the media’s culpability here, because Dana’s ability to breeze past this sort of stuff is almost directly a result of the MMA media’s unwillingness to pursue such topics as would be done in most other sports. When Dana said “I don’t know if I heard anything racist that he said,” the immediate follow-up should have been to read Covington’s quotes to Dana, and then ask for comment. Make the head of a $4 billion company, who has corporate overlords to answer to, say on the record whether or not he thinks that referencing African tribes and “smoke signals” is racist. That’s the first step in fixing this because Dana is certainly not going to do anything. And the thing is, we actually have proof that this would work, from just this year!

Remember when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Dana White was insisting on running events despite all logic, reason, and medical advice? The MMA media almost universally decried the UFC’s decisions, to no avail whatsoever. However, a journalist from the New York Times wrote about the story, thus putting it into the mainstream world in a big way, and Senators took notice, including Dianne Feinstein who called the execs at Disney and they reined White in. If Dana is put on the spot to acknowledge direct statements and his view on them, then, depending on his response, that would 100 percent become a much bigger story in the wider world, necessitating action.

But it’s kind of insane that we are talking about needing outside pressure to act in this instance anyway. The UFC has an Code of Conduct policy, of which the relevant section reads:

Discipline may be imposed for misconduct, which includes without limitation, the following examples:

Derogatory or offensive conduct, including without limitation insulting language, symbols, or actions about a person’s ethnic background, heritage, color, race, national origin, age, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

Anyone with basic reading comprehension can understand that Covington’s statement absolutely falls under this. By not enforcing the rules in a consistent manner, the UFC is de facto invalidating its own rules, which is never a good thing, especially when they have used the Code of Conduct in the past and have, despite Dana White’s insistence, “muzzled” fighters in the past. Remember last year when Conor McGregor also got super bigoted while talking about Khabib’s wife and the UFC stepped in? Do we really need to let Covington keep pushing his rhetoric further down that road until we stop it?

I guess the most frustrating part of this whole fiasco is just how simple it is to not mess up, and the steadfast refusal of the UFC to just keep messing up. It would be incredibly simple to just say, “Yeah, Colby crossed a line. We’re going to speak to him about the racially charged stuff,” and that could’ve been the end of it. They didn’t even need to fine him! (Though actually, fining him would probably be a better promotional tool of turning Covington into the Stone Cold Steve Austin of the UFC for the MAGA crowd.) Instead, they buried their heads in the sand, alienating some of their workforce, potential viewers, and potential sponsors, and all for what? Seriously, what is the gain here? Now Dana doesn’t have to have a conversation with Colby Covington?

I take it all back. That’s actually a phenomenal reason.

Colby Covington, title contender

If you didn’t know, following his win over Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington jumped back to the No. 1 spot in the UFC’s welterweight rankings. Former No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns, was very unhappy about this, which is, I suppose, understandable, but dead wrong. You may dislike Colby Covington or you may love him, but no one can deny that the man is the second-best welterweight alive right now, based on accomplishment.

Gilbert Burns has had a very good run at welterweight, going 4-0, with wins over Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia, and Tyron Woodley in the past year. Covington, by contrast, is 11-2 in the division with one of those losses being a Fight of the Year contender with the current champion. Covington has also beaten Maia and Woodley, but on top of that, has wins over Raphael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler, not to mention an interim title belt in his collection. Losing to Kamaru Usman doesn’t negate what Covington did before and it certainly shouldn’t move Burns above him, especially since Burns is going to have that same fate befall him later this year. Burns should have never been ranked above Covington, this is just nature correcting itself.

UFC 253

I wrote about Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa a couple weeks ago so I won’t dive into too much further detail on that other than to say that upon further review, I think this fight strongly favors Adesanya’s skillset, but I still have this sinking feeling that in 2020, we aren’t allowed to have good things.

As for the co-main event, I’m one of the many people that think Dominick Reyes beat Jon Jones and thus is the true light heavyweight champion. The judge’s may have robbed him of his rightful title last time, but tonight, no such bad luck will befall him. Jan Blachowicz has had a good run in the division of late but the reality is that Reyes is the vastly superior athlete of the two and I think he’s going to run through the Legendary Polish Power, with relative ease.

Getting into MMA

The first fight I ever recall seeing was Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp. I obviously didn’t watch it live but someone pulled up this clip of it on like, eBaum’s World or something and I remember thinking it was insane. After that, I still didn’t get into MMA but then Fedor Emelianenko and the Randleplex happened and that started piquing my interest more. I still never watched a full fight card but I started to search out cool highlights of events with more frequency. The first UFC fight I ever saw was Chuck Liddell KOing Vernon White and then pretty soon after that The Ultimate Fighter happened. I still wasn’t hardcore into it, and to this day I still have never watched TUF 1, but The Ultimate Fighter Finale was the first live event I ever watched since it was on free TV and that pretty much cemented me as a fan.

As for introducing someone to the sport, I’m a very direct sort of person and so I don’t feel the need to ease someone into it. Either they are going to like this carnival of violence or they aren’t so let’s get answers and not waste anyone’s time. That being said, I think you can’t show one fight, I think you have to show two for a new viewer to grasp the breadth of human cockfighting.

First, I would show them Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000. Longtime readers will know that this fight is unironically one of my five favorite bouts of all-time. It highlights all of the terrible brilliance of this sport. Two men, who are mostly trash but would still beat the piss out of 90 percent of the population, laying it all on the line, even though what they have to offer isn’t much. It’s hilarious and heroic and tragic all at the same time which is about the most perfect encapsulation of this sport as I think can be found.

Then after that, I would show them what the sport can be at its best by showing them the greatest fight of all time: Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit. You don’t need to know anything about fighting to understand what is happening in this fight. Both men are baring their souls in the cage in the same vein as Kimbo-Dada but in the language of the gods. There’s a back and forth, ebbs and flows, and a narrative being told through violent collisions, all culminating in the fifth round where Robbie Lawler gives everything he has trying to finish Condit who gives equally as much back trying to stay alive. In the end, they are both so spent that they stand next to each other leaning on the cage because they have no more to give. They’d already given everything to each other and the fans.

One is what this sport is, and one is what this sport can be, and if watching those two fights doesn’t make you want to be a fan, then brother, you’re not my kind of weird.

Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.

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