Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every Thursday, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Colby Covington is making plenty of noise ahead of this Saturday’s UFC 272 headline bout against Jorge Masvidal, and the top-ranked welterweight contender plans on backing up every single one of his claims.
“I hold Jorge Masvidal’s destiny in the palm of my hands,” said Covington (16-3). “I’m going to make him suffer.”
Carrying the nickname of “Chaos”, Covington relishes the chance to play mind games with opponents. He is willing to insult people, families, and countries, which Masvidal believes crosses a line.
“You don’t have to be a piece of s— scumbag to sell pay-per-views,” Masvidal told Sports Illustrated. “You don’t need to insult wives or religions or kids. This is not how you sell pay-per-views, and I want the next generation to see this. Nothing about him sits well with me. I’m putting an end to this.”
Yet Covington, clearly, believes in his style of marketing–and he is laying it on thick before this Saturday’s fight.
“I want to punish him for the way he’s backstabbed me, his ex-wife, his kids, his mom,” said Covington. “You’re going to see him squeal on pay-per-view.”
Covington and Masvidal (35-15) first became close over a decade ago in 2011 when they became teammates with American Top Team. Masvidal even invited Covington to live with him for a stretch. But both agree that is all a distant memory, with Masvidal claiming the friendship dissolved after Covington opted not to pay striking coach Paulino Hernandez, who is a father figure to Masvidal, an agreed-upon percentage. Unsurprisingly, Covington has a different recollection of how the situation unfolded.
“You can’t believe anything he says–it’s all fake news,” said Covington. “I didn’t get paid what was reported on the Internet. Not everything that gets reported is true. I made a half of what was reported, so that’s [the percentage] I paid.”
The real reason the friendship broke, Covington claims, is that Masvidal became bitter after watching him defeat Demian Maia in October of 2017.
“I beat Demian right after Jorge lost to him, and he got jealous, he got bitter,” said Covington. “The thing with him is he wanted to see me do well, but as soon as I was doing better than him, it became a problem. He didn’t like the attention I was getting, or that I was making more money than him, or that I was higher than him in the rankings.
“Originally, we had a bond. I came across him training in the gym. He saw how good I was in wrestling and how high my pace was, and he said, ‘Dude, I want this. Can you train me? Can you help me every single day?’ And we became best friends. We were brothers, we were inseparable for seven, eight years. But he got jealous, he got bitter. He’s an egomaniac, and now he’s going to get his face wrecked.”
Masvidal has a masterful ability to box and work the body, but Covington stressed there is a world of separation between the level of their skill sets. Even if the two stand and strike, Covington claims, he will still possess the advantage.
“I’m a better fighter all-around, I can beat him everywhere,” said Covington. “Saturday night, you’ll see the greatest pound-for-pound martial artist on display.
“Jorge said a lot of reckless things, and now he’s going to be held accountable. He said he’ll baptize me, that he’ll leave me in critical condition. Now he needs to back it up. This fight isn’t about the rankings, it’s about settling the biggest personal feud in the history of the UFC.”
Covington’s one concern, he added facetiously, is that Masvidal may back out of the fight.
“I think there’s still a chance he backs out,” said Covington. “T-Mobile [Arena] has a lot of exits, so let’s just hope he gets into the cage with me. Once he does, it’s going to be a long night for him.”
When asked about plans following the Masvidal fight, Covington did not hesitate. He wants a third bout against reigning welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, who has already defeated him twice, including by unanimous decision last November at Madison Square Garden. He also wants a grudge match in the Octagon against Dustin Poirier.
“Right now, I feel like I’m the undisputed champion,” said Covington. “Just because the three stooges judging the fight [against Usman at UFC 268] didn’t score it for me, that doesn’t mean I didn’t win. I won a minimum of three rounds out of those five. I clearly had the bigger shots in the later rounds. There is still unfinished business between myself and Usman.
“And Dustin Poirier, that’s another personal beef that needs to be settled. Let Dustin pick the sight. He’s another guy I want to hold accountable for the stupid, reckless things he’s said in the media. Dustin Poirier, come get this work.”
Masvidal has made it clear that he will put a violent stop to Covington’s unrelenting insults and bravado. Covington has left no doubt that he will dominate Masvidal in the Octagon. There will be a breaking point on Saturday, with the fight representing a pivotal victory for both men.
“I know I’m the best fighter in the world, and I’m going to prove it again on March 5,” said Covington. “It’s going to be a long, drawn-out beating, and I promise Jorge Masvidal will never be the same again after Saturday night.”
Mariya Agapova ready for violent encounter with Maryna Moroz at UFC 272 prelims
Masvidal and Covington are not the only former teammates fighting on Saturday night.
Another personal encounter will take place when Mariya Agapova meets Maryna Moroz in a women’s flyweight bout on the UFC 272 prelims.
Like the combatants in the main event, Agapova (10-2) and Moroz (10-3) are former teammates at American Top Team–and this has also turned extremely personal.
“I’m trying to keep away from all the negative information that will just make me lose my temper,” Agapova said. “She’s purposely trying to piss me off, but I shouldn’t fall for that game.”
Last summer, Moroz accused Agapova of drug abuse and threatening teammates. Agapova’s manager Alex Davis denied she ever abused drugs, explaining that Agapova went through a tough time after moving from Kazakhstan to the United States–and that she attended therapy sessions.
Agapova believes therapy helped her become a stronger person.
“I had so much stress that I stopped taking my medication,” said Agapova, 24. “I was hospitalized and I went to therapy. I have had a few former friends that abused me. So I’m working through my trauma.
“When someone abuses you, you stop believing in yourself. When I worked with my therapist, I worked on self-esteem and boundaries. That’s the first time I ever did that. I’m not going to let people treat me like s—. Now I am a much better person and fighter.”
Agapova defeated Sabina Mazo last October by submission, and she wants to build enough momentum with a victory at 272 to break into the top-15. In order to accomplish that, Agapova needs to avoid the pitfalls that cost her against Shana Dobson when they met in the summer of 2020.
“I followed my emotions and wasted all my energy against Shana Dobson,” Agapova said. “I will try to stay calm and follow my game plan.
“At first I thought Moroz was just jealous, but she was trying to destroy my career. This is a personal conflict, and I might get emotional. That might prevent me from winning.”
Moroz last fought on March 14, 2020, which was a unanimous decision victory against Mayra Bueno Silva. Ever since, she has struggled to travel from Ukraine for the fights, withdrawing from three bouts over the past two years. Moroz will return to the Octagon in memorable fashion this Saturday, as there is every reason to believe she and Agapova will have an extremely physical contest at 272. But there is a great deal more meaning attached to this fight, as both women are from countries dealing with the harsh realities of war.
“There is a war going on in Ukraine right now, and literally it was just months ago there was a war in my country of Kazakhstan,” said Agapova. “People were locked in their own houses in Kazakhstan. It was like a prison. I have to fight for my loved ones and bring them here. That’s what I have to do. I’m fighting for my life and for my relatives and friends.”
The Pick ‘Em Section:
Here are my picks for UFC 272:
UFC 272 main event: Jorge Masvidal vs. Colby Covington
Pick: Jorge Masvidal
UFC 272 lightweight bout: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Renato Moicano
Pick: Rafael dos Anjos
UFC 272 featherweight bout: Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell
Pick: Edson Barboza
UFC 272 welterweight bout: Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira
Pick: Kevin Holland
UFC 272 heavyweight bout: Sergey Spivak vs. Greg Hardy
Pick: Sergey Spivak
Last week: 4-1
2022 record: 27-8
More MMA Coverage:
• Jorge Masvidal Vows to Settle Feud Against Colby Covington
• Exclusive: Dana White Expects Fireworks in Covington-Masvidal UFC 272 Bout