Colby Covington’s Character: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Chael Sonnen was one of the first fighters to introduce trash-talking in MMA. Conor McGregor took it to the next level, and then came Colby “Chaos” Covington. Now, most MMA fans are well aware of the consequences when a microphone is given in Covington’s hands. Some may find it entertaining, but many don’t.

Over the years, Colby Covington has become notorious for getting under people’s skin. It does not matter whether it’s a sold-out arena in Brazil or a former heavyweight champion on the streets, Covington will try his best to get his name out there by any means necessary, even if it means getting personal.

Surprisingly, Covington was not always brash and outspoken. As a matter of fact, he was quite humble during his early years in the UFC. He kept winning and climbing up the ranks. Covington racked up an impressive 12-1 record before taking a decision that changed his career trajectory forever.

Colby Covington vs Demian Maia winner
Colby Covington dominates Demian Maia to win via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida.

What was this decision, and why was Colby Covington forced to take it? Don’t break your head. MMA is a simple game of numbers. As long as you are winning and people are paying to watch your fights, you are safe. But what happens if someone is winning and nobody is interested in watching him because his style is “not fan-friendly?”

You get cut!

Sadly, wrestling and other forms of grappling put casual fans to sleep. It does not take more than a minute of grappling before you hear the boos.

Colby, a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, found himself in a similar situation. He failed to get people interested. After all, he was not knocking people out or pulling off insane flying armbars. His game plan revolved around outwrestling and outworking his opponents with his never-ending cardio.

Destruction in Brazil: Colby Covington Introduces New Gimmick

On October 28, 2017, Covington was scheduled to fight veteran grappler, Demian Maia. It was his last fight on the contract and like most of his fights, the American dominated his opponent to earn a unanimous decision win. Following the win, ‘Chaos’ rained in the arena as Covington trashed the Brazilian fans and called out then-champion Tyron Woodley.

Colby Covington turns heel after defeating Demian Maia

The event shook the MMA community. And out of nowhere, all the spotlight was on Covington. A wrestler with an almost non-existent fanbase became the talk of the town. Even the UFC was forced to re-sign him. And once again, the microphone proved to be the most powerful tool in the octagon.

But why did he do it? Almost two years after the event, Covington appeared in an interview with Candace Owens. And to be honest, whatever he revealed that day was not surprising at all.

“I’ve never told this story before but three fights ago, before I fought the No. 2 guy in the world, this guy named Demian Maia in Brazil, they had told my manager Dan Lambert that they weren’t going to re-sign me. They didn’t like my style. They didn’t like that I wasn’t entertaining. This is before I really started to become an entertainer and really understand the entertainment aspect of the business. Before this fight, they told me no matter what happens, I was ranked No. 6 in the world, we’re not re-signing you, we don’t like your character, we don’t like your fighting style.”

Since that day, Covington has never gone unnoticed. Fans either watch to see him win or lose (mostly, it’s the latter). Colby even made his political views public. He took his interim title — which he won after defeating Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 225 — to the White House and presented it to then-President of the United States, Donald Trump.

The Price of Covington’s Antics

You can’t expect everything to go right when you’re playing the villain. Along the road, Covington lost many fans, friends, coaches, and even had to leave his gym. His longtime training partner and ex-friend, Jorge Masvidal, developed a heated rivalry with Colby. Many fighters at his former gym, American Top Team (ATT), even refused to train with him. Some of them, including female fighters, wanted to fight him.

The tensions grew at ATT, and on May 30, 2020, Masvidal revealed that Colby Covington and Phil Daru (strength and conditioning coach) have been fired from the gym. Colby, however, claimed that it was a mutual departure.

Jorge Masvidal claims Colby Covington and Phil Daru have been fired from ATT

Covington now trains with Daniel Valverde at the MMA Masters gym, where he realized he is not a southpaw.

Did the Gimmick Work?

Colby Covington made $83,000 for his win over Maia. For his next fight against Rafael dos Anjos, he made $380,000, followed by $230,000 against Lawler, $580,000 for his defeat against reigning champion Kamaru Usman, and $310,000 for his TKO win over Tyron Woodley. It is important to note that this is an estimated figure from the disclosed purses. Any undisclosed bonuses are not included.

Colby Covington punching Tyron Woodley
UFC Fight Night: Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley

Yes, the gimmick paid off. People are now interested to watch Covington fight. His high-pressure striking with non-stop takedown threat is considered one of the most entertaining styles in the UFC. Currently, he’s on the verge of a second undisputed title shot after defeating Tyron Woodley on September 19, 2020.

Colby Covington: Behind the Mask

Before his fight with Lawler in Newark, Covington interacted with a bunch of fans. When one of them asked for advice, Covington showed his true colors and did not hold back. No, he did not go on a verbal tirade. Instead, he told everything he knew to the young fan. He also revealed why he built the character of a supervillain.

Colby Covington breaks character ahead the Robbie Lawler fight

When asked to show his humble side more often, Covington replied saying, “That’s not what sells.” Now, you know why he acts like a buffoon on camera.

In an interview conducted by MMA Fighting, Covington’s former coach and manager, Dan Lambert, said:

“Colby’s a guy you don’t hear from in the gym. Colby’s a guy who just puts his head down and does his work. He’s not a guy that stands out for anything, other than he’s really good at what he does.”

Lambert also praised Covington’s work ethic and clean lifestyle. Well, Colby’s secret behind his unending cardio is out, and it’s not related to the bedroom.

It’s a no-brainer that Colby Covington is playing a character. Unlike Conor McGregor or Chael Sonnen, you can see through the mask. Realistically speaking, it’s one of the most unauthentic characters in the UFC. However, it sells!

Andrea Marques
Professional Boxing and MMA writer at The Combat Magazine.