Top MMA Prospect Colby Covington: “I’m Beyond Ready to be in the UFC”
He’s only four fights into his professional mixed martial arts career, but college wrestling standout Colby Covington – who will be fighting this Friday at AFC: The Return on allowance from Titan Fighting Championship – is already being lauded by many MMA insiders as the next big thing coming out of South Florida fight factory American Top Team Coconut Creek. Undefeated both professionally and as an amateur, his unblemished record and notable wrestling pedigree seems to be giving his opponents cold feet; according to him, more than 100 opponents have backed out of fights with him.
“I can’t speak for any other fighters, but I can’t imagine anyone’s had more back-outs than me,” he says. “I’ve been here three years and have had at least 100 back-outs. On this show, I had two back-outs already. I was supposed to fight a guy from Atlanta and then he backed out a week ago. Then I was supposed to fight another guy and he backed out. Finally they found some replacement opponent, some guy who’s got like 70 fights, so my hat’s off to him for taking it. It’s hard, man. No one in Titan wants to fight me. I’m just hoping I get my chance in the big show – the UFC – soon, because they obviously can’t back out there; they’ve got to sign a contract and they’ve got to fight.”
Covington began his collegiate wrestling career at Iowa Central Community College, where he roomed with current UFC light heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound kingpin Jon “Bones” Jones (who won his JUCO championship there as well). Personal issues forced him to relocate back home to Oregon (where he’d lived since he was 11 years old), and after enrolling in Oregon State University, he went on to earn All-American Status, winning the Pac-10 championship twice as an All-American.
Last year, he won gold at the FILA No-Gi Grappling World Championship, where he was the only American to earn the first place medal, doing so without a single point being scored against him (this distinction is especially noteworthy on account of him doing so on a week’s notice).
“After high school, I decided to go junior college wrestle at Iowa Central,” he says. “At that time, I didn’t really feel like I was ready to jump into the [Division I] level yet. I didn’t really start getting good at wrestling until my senior year of high school. My senior year, I had some offers from some [Division I] colleges but I decided that JUCO was the better route for me.”
Once there, the environment and the people around him reshaped his future aspirations.
“As soon as I got to Iowa Central, and my roommate’s Jon Jones and there’s [Bellator inaugural featherweight champion] Joe Soto – he’s right on the cusp of the UFC – as soon as I got around those guys and the coaches that were there, they were all about fighting,” he recalls. “We’d always grapple after practice. Me and Jon would mess around with stuff – flying elbows, flying knees and stuff like that – as soon as I got there, I knew. As a kid, my dream was to be in the Olympics, but as soon as I got to Iowa Central my dream became wanting to be a fighter, to be the best in the world and to provide a better life for me and my family.”
Following a brief stint in Oregon’s local amateur MMA circuit, Covington relocated to the Sunshine State, making his home in Coconut Creek, FL and training with some of the sport’s elite at American Top Team. One of his teammates, #14-ranked UFC lightweight Jorge Masvidal, is his roommate. He fought three times in 2012, submitting two of his opponents, but only fought once in 2013 – against Jose “The Fresh Prince of Kendall” Caceres at CFA 12: Sampo vs. Thao – where he won a unanimous decision in a lopsidedly dominant contest. Although he’s been dominant in all of his appearances, Covington maintains that he still has yet to reach his full potential.
“Most of my fights, they’re finishes,” he says. “One fight, I broke my hand in the first 10 seconds and I kind of had to get out of there with a pretty easy decision, but no one’s really been able to push me. I have to keep getting better, though. My last performance [against Caceres] wasn’t to the standard I hold myself to. I want to finish guys. When I was in wrestling, I wanted to finish guys. I wanted to pin them or tech them. It’s the same mentality with fighting; I want to submit them or knock them out. I’ve dominated all the fights that I’ve had, but there’s always room for improvement.”
He’ll have an opportunity to show how much he’s improved since his last appearance this Friday when he competes in Absolute Fighting Championship (AFC): The Return, which marks the first time in a seven years the historic South Florida mixed martial arts promotion is holding an event. His opponent, Jay Ellis, is 13-53 and is currently on a 9-fight losing streak. That markedly negative decoration aside, Ellis has faced many high level athletes such as UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and Bellator featherweight champ Pat Curran, and actually holds a submission win over former Bellator FW champ Daniel Straus and a 24-second knockout over YouTube sensation/UFC washout Kimbo Slice.
Though his fight Friday may not be the one to do it, it seems like only a matter of time before the Ultimate Fighting Championship calls him up to the big show.
“I’m hoping this is the last fight, but I can’t predict the future,” he says. “I do feel like I’m ready. I train with the best guys in the world and I think they would tell you. Robbie Lawler – guys like that – will tell you, ‘This guy should be in the UFC already.’ I don’t want to come off as cocky in anything that I ever say, but I honestly I do have the aspirations, I know my skills, I train with a lot of high level guys and I feel like I’m beyond ready to be in the UFC and start making my way to a world championship fight. Hopefully nobody takes that the wrong way, but I didn’t get into this sport to fight guys with losing records, you know? I want to fight the best in the world.”
Follow writer Jesse Scheckner on Twitter @JesseScheckner.
- Absolute Fighting Championship
- AFC: The Return
- American Top Team
- Anthony Pettis
- Bellator FC
- Bellator Fighting Championship
- CFA 12: Sampo vs. Thao
- Championship Fighting Alliance
- Coconut Creek
- Colby Covington
- Daniel Straus
- Jay Ellis
- Jesse Scheckner
- Joe Soto
- Jon Jones
- Jorge Masvidal
- Jose Caceres
- Kimbo Slice
- Mixed Martial Arts
- MMA Owl
- Pat Curran
- Robbie Lawler
- Titan FC
- Titan Fighting Championship
- Ultimate Fighting Championship