Colby Covington sat out for nearly two years before returning at UFC 296, where he lost a lopsided fight to reigning welterweight champion Leon Edwards in a failed third attempt at becoming undisputed champion.
Afterward, Covington pointed towards the long layoff and ring rust as potential factors in his lackluster performance, while still touting his belief that he actually won the fight.
UFC CEO Dana White vehemently disagreed with Covington’s assessment that he was victorious, while also criticizing the always outspoken welterweight for sitting out rather than staying active, especially as he approached the wrong side of 30.
“My take on it is when you’re 35 years old or any age in this sport and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to wait,’ waiting is never a good idea in this sport,” White said at the UFC 296 post-fight press conference. “This sport doesn’t wait for anybody.
“He looked slow tonight. He got out-wrestled. Leon looked good, Leon looked fast. Looked like [Colby] had trouble dealing with his speed and then getting out-wrestled too. Not to mention Leon absolutely destroyed that leg too.”
As far as pressure getting to Covington after everything he said and did leading into the fight, White downplayed that as a major factor, especially knowing that the spotlight was shining down on Edwards just as much.
In White’s opinion, Covington just looked like he lost a step, and Edwards made him pay for it in the fight.
“I think pressure gets to everybody,” White said. “I’m sure Leon had a ton of pressure. I mean, he was just talking about what [Colby] said about his father and the last thing you want to do now is go out and lose to that guy. All these guys deal with pressure, but Colby’s been in big fights before. This isn’t Colby’s first rodeo. He’s been in big fights.
“Colby just looked slow and old tonight, in my opinion. I think everybody felt the same way. I mean, he got out-wrestled by Leon tonight.”
White also denied that the UFC kept Covington sidelined by choice to keep him ready for the fight against Edwards. While Covington was named as the No. 1 contender for the title months prior to UFC 296, White says he never tells anyone to just sit and wait, especially in a business where there are simply no guarantees that strategy will pay off.
“I don’t ever have anybody wait in this business,” White said. “This not a business that waits for you. Your windows are very short and you never know once you start getting up into your mid-30s when you’re going to show up and just not look like you anymore.”
Covington may have put on a poor showing during his latest title shot, but White had nothing but praise for Edwards, who successfully defended his belt for the second time.
Edwards added Covington to his growing list of victories and extended his overall unbeaten streak to 13 in a row, with his last loss coming all the way back in 2015.
As far as who’s next for Edwards, White wasn’t ready to commit to that answer right now, but he does like the idea of taking the welterweight champion back to his native United Kingdom for another title defense when he returns in 2024.
“Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to have him fight in England, if you look at what the kid’s done,” White said of Edwards. “He beat [Kamaru] Usman twice and just beat Colby. Colby’s the guy I was saying if Usman didn’t exist, he’d probably be the dominant champion in that weight class, and Leon beat them both. Much respect to him and he looked incredible tonight.”