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22.06.2018

UFC’s race war is coming.

The UFC is home to the freaks, weirdos and castoffs that could not exist in any other professional sport. There are guys like Brock Lesnar, a professional wrestler, Greg Hardy, an alleged domestic abuser and NFL castoff, and even George St-Pierre, who is so holier than thou that he used to walk to the cage in a...
Time: 08:24     Date: 14.06.2018
Last US Sport News: UFC’s race war is coming. NY Post 24 - US News

There are guys like Brock Lesnar, a professional wrestler, Greg Hardy, an alleged domestic abuser and NFL castoff, and even George St-Pierre, who is so holier than thou that he used to walk to the cage in a “Karate Kid”-style outfit complete with the rising sun headband.

This diversity is part of what makes the UFC so great. It’s also one of the UFC’s biggest problems because it is hard to turn oddities into long-lasting storylines.

That’s why the brewing rivalry between linear welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and interim welterweight champion Colby Covington is a godsend. These two guys have a history of hating each other, love to talk trash, and will speak on any subject up to and including America’s premier hot-button issue: race.

The rivalry between the welterweight champions became very real on Saturday night right after Covington beat Rafael Dos Anjos for the interim title at UFC 225 in Chicago.

“I’m coming for you, Tyron Woodley! What!” Covington screamed into the camera as UFC president Dana White wrapped the belt around his waist.

UFC commentator Joe Rogan then put his arm around Covington’s shoulder for the post-fight interview. The crowd booed. Covington put a hand to his ear like a classic wrestling heel.

“This is the real championship belt,” Covington bellowed, “And I’m going to do what a real American should do, I’m bringing this belt to the White House and I’m putting it on Donald Trump’s desk.

“And secondly Joe, Tyron Woodley, you’re a freaking coward. Why’d you let this little filthy animal [Dos Anjos] take this ass whooping? This was supposed to be you. You can’t run, you can’t hide no more, Tyron Woodley. I’m coming for you.

“If you’ve got something to say come see me bitch!”

Woodley, who has been out of action for months while recovering from shoulder surgery, most definitely had something to say to Covington, and he let rip on a live chat on social media Monday.

“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 f–k 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 f–king bad they’re never gonna want to let me fight in the UFC again, that’s a fact,” Woodley said according to a transcript by MMAFighting.com.

And thus begins the hype machine for a welterweight unification bout that, while not officially booked, has all the ingredients necessary for an instant promotional classic.

For starters, Woodley and Covington know each other extremely well. They’ve both trained at American Top Team and Covington was even one of Woodley’s training partners at one point. Woodley has mostly moved on from ATT. He still trains there on occasion, while Covington has become one of the gym’s poster boys, but the fact that they know each other so intimately is already creating fireworks.

Then, there’s the fact that they both have legitimate belts. They’ve even recently fought the same opponent — Damian Maia — with Covington looking even better than Woodley against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master.

However, the crux of their rivalry is going to be race because Woodley and Covington can’t stop talking about it and because the two fighters stand on diametrically opposite sides of the debate.

Woodley (left) fights Stephen Thompson in 2016.Getty Images

The foundations of Covington’s WWE-style, bad guy character is his willingness to say racist things to get attention. When he called Dos Anjos a “little filthy animal” in the cage after their fight at UFC 225, Covington was repeating one of his signature lines. He also enjoys calling Brazil a “dump” that is full of criminals and has repeatedly tried to flip the conversation on its head by saying that Woodley is actually the race baiter.

Woodley, however, is not a race baiter. Instead, he chooses to speak openly about how black athletes are treated in the UFC within the context of race in America. Sometimes, Woodley makes a lot of sense on the subject and has good evidence to support his case. After winning the title over Robbie Lawler in 2016, for example, Woodley shared on his podcast that fans routinely called him the n-word and “monkey.”

At other times, though, Woodley makes statements about race without providing real evidence to support his claims. For instance, he once told ESPN that he is “by far the worst-treated champion in UFC history” because he’s black. Whether that is true or not is impossible to say, but there is no disputing the fact that the UFC has done everything in its power to promote black champions like Tito Ortiz and Jon Jones in the past even when, in Jones’ case, they make huge missteps outside the cage.

Whatever your opinion of Woodley and his musings on race, it is clear which camp he’s in. He is pro-equality and anti-racism.

Covington, if his words are to be taken literally, which isn’t a given, is in the opposite camp. He’s willing to say racist things and has no problem putting one group down in favor of another.

Eventually, the two will fight each other. Until then, the racial fireworks will fly.

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