You could almost call what’s been happening in the UFC welterweight division a love triangle, except for the fact that most of the people involved seem to hate each other.
But how they played off (and were played against) one another can tell us a lot about the UFC’s current approach to title-fight matchmaking – at least in those divisions in which there’s no clear money-making star.
Where we ended up now seems clear. UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will defend his title against Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March. Former UFC interim champ Colby Covington will sit around and wonder what happened to his title shot, even if, deep down, he already knows.
Start with UFC President Dana White’s proclamation of a couple weeks ago that, no matter what, Usman would be fighting for the 170-pound strap on March 2 in Las Vegas. The way White worded it – “Usman vs. someone for the title” – suggested a sense of total indifference to the actual champ.
Clearly, the UFC had a date circled on that calendar. On that date, there would be a welterweight title fight, even if it meant stripping Woodley of his title just six months after his last title defense.
Or at least, that’s what White wanted everyone – Woodley included – to think he was willing to do.
In the end, that bit of public pressure seems to have worked. Woodley, who had been holding out for a fight with Covington, said yes to Usman instead. And Covington, who had been angling for a fight specifically with Woodley, and only when he felt he was healthy enough to give himself a good chance at winning, got left out entirely.
How did Usman end up as the lucky one, the one person who was a solid lock to fight for the title no matter what anyone else around him did? You could argue that it was his decision win over Rafael dos Anjos that did it, but Covington also beat dos Anjos via decision, and just as convincingly.
Really, it seems that what Usman really did was say yes. Yes to Woodley. Yes to “someone else.” Yes to whatever the UFC wanted and whenever it wanted it. If you want to be one of White’s guys, with all the accompanying rights, privileges and honors, this historically has proven to be the most reliable way to get there.
This approach is not without risks. For instance, if you say yes to an opponent and/or a date that are bad ideas for you, for one reason or another, your willingness to step up and fight can be swiftly and easily forgotten after a loss.
And whatever you thought the promised rewards might be (an interim title that can be exchanged for a crack at the real one, for instance) is ultimately not unlike a UFC fight card – subject to change.
So what did we learn? Mostly that the UFC isn’t sold on Woodley’s drawing power. Also that, when it comes to champs who aren’t walking cash registers, the UFC is willing to work around them – or at least threaten to.
If you’re a star, you can pick your date and maybe even your opponent. If you’re not, you can either show up when the UFC tells you to, or else it’ll find someone else who will.
Having a belt around your waist won’t save you. And having an interim belt won’t even buy you some time.
- Colby Covington rails at UFC over title snub, vows to confront Dana White
- Tyron Woodley listed as UFC 235 betting favorite over Kamaru Usman – but not by a lot
- Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (8 p.m. ET) with Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: What we learned about UFC title matchmaking from Woodley, Usman, Covington and White