UFC 272: Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal's irreversible rift ahead of Las Vegas grudge match

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When dissecting the origins of Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal’s feud, it is perhaps best to keep in mind a pertinent quote delivered by Gamebred a few weeks ago.

‘There’s three sides to every story: there’s yours, theirs, and the truth.’

Arriving at the ‘truth’ has proven a tricky task for journalists and fans, with the welterweight rivals providing conflicting accounts of how their friends-turned-foes grudge came about.

Masvidal has lost his last two fights, both to Kamaru Usman

Covington is regarded as the best welterweight other than Usman

Jorge Masvidal (L) and Colby Covington (R) are set to settle their rivalry at UFC 272 in Vegas

These UFC rivals had, many moons ago, been an inseparable double act. Not only did Covington and Masvidal train together at the famed American Top Team gym in Florida, they also lived together, with Gamebred letting Chaos stay with him and his girlfriend.

In fact, Masvidal released footage this week of himself and Covington during happier days. A video posted to YouTube shows the pair playing video games, training, sprinting down a hallway and sharing kind words for each other as they climbed the welterweight ladder. Covington even described Masvidal as his ‘best friend’.

And while each fighter’s explanation for their rift do not align, it is fair to suggest that small cracks began to emerge in October 2017. 

Covington (L) and Masvidal (R) were an inseparable duo during their time together at ATT

Covington (L) and Masvidal (R) were an inseparable duo during their time together at ATT

The welterweight pair used to train and live together as they climbed up the UFC rankings

Covington, a promising welterweight prospect, had struggled to build traction despite amassing an impressive 12-1 record. With the threat of a UFC axing looming, his trip to Brazil to take on the nation’s beloved Damien Maia was his chance to rectify that.

Maia had recently fought Masvidal in May of that year, earning a split decision victory to book a title fight with Tyron Woodley. The Brazilian lost to The Chosen One, and eyed a match-up with Covington as a chance to get back on the winning trail.

Chaos, needing a big performance to win favour with UFC bosses, dominated Maia over three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory. 

Yet the previously meek, humble American deemed that his display during 15 minutes of action was not enough to capture the masses’ attention and launched a controversial tirade on the microphone. 

However, Covington's win over Demian Maia in October 2017 was a turning point for the pair

However, Covington’s win over Demian Maia in October 2017 was a turning point for the pair

The 34-year-old labelled Brazil a 'dump' and called supporters 'filthy animals' in Sao Paulo

The 34-year-old labelled Brazil a ‘dump’ and called supporters ‘filthy animals’ in Sao Paulo

‘Brazil, you’re a dump!’ Covington said. ‘All you filthy animals suck. I’ve got one thing to say: Tyron Woodley, I’m coming for you. If you don’t answer the front door, I’m going to knock it in and I’m going to take what’s mine, that welterweight belt!’ 

The 34-year-old has since admitted that his infamous speech was his ‘big break’ as UFC chiefs deemed he was not ‘entertaining’ enough before his meeting with Maia. 

While the American had launched himself into the public conscience, back at ATT, Covington’s team-mates were getting restless. It is understood that his Brazilian team-mates refused to train with him as a frosty atmosphere descended over this quiet corner of the Sunshine State.

Covington’s new persona did not sit well with Masvidal, either. Gamebred claims he saw ‘signs’ of his friend’s attitude changing, and was far from impressed with the 34-year-old’s comments aimed at Woodley, who had taken care of Covington as a youngster.

Covington chose to publicly aim digs at team-mates Masvidal and Dustin Poirier (above)

Covington chose to publicly aim digs at team-mates Masvidal and Dustin Poirier (above) 

‘I would see signs in the way he treated his family, the way he talked about his sister, the way he talked about his mom,’ he said. ‘So, I was just like, this guy’s interesting.

‘Tyron Woodley brought him out. He was giving him like $1,000 a week, something crazy like that when this guy was an amateur just to train with him for four weeks. Sponsors, food, and then he just came back talking sh** about Woodley in a negative way.’

Masvidal also lifted the lid on a warning he received from UFC legend Jon Jones about Covington’s character.

‘Jon Jones warned me numerous times. Me and Jon Jones weren’t even cool like that,’ Masvidal told ESPN. ‘We hadn’t spoken too much. But he sent a couple messages to me via our manager at the time. Like, “Man, watch this guy. He stole my clothes. My clothes don’t even fit him. He robbed me of money before we left the room. I never talked to him again.”‘

Tensions intensified further when Masvidal alleged that Covington had refused to pay ATT coach Paulino Hernandez after the Maia win, and when Chaos started directing insults at Gamebred and Dustin Poirier in the media, against the wishes of ATT owner Dan Lambert, Masvidal sought to repair relations. 

He said: ‘I come into the gym, random practice, and I see him there — and he kind of tries to ignore me. And I was like, ‘Hey bro, after practice, we’ll talk.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, for sure, bro. Cool, cool. We’re talking.’ It’s pretty amicable, it’s not that bad.

‘He’s like, ‘What do you want to talk about?’ I’m like, ‘I want to talk about you being a b***h and bringing up my name in interviews when Dan [Lambert] has said not to.’

It all came to a head at ATT as Masvidal pressed Covington on his bizarre public statements, while he also claims that 'Chaos' refused to pay a coach at the gym

It all came to a head at ATT as Masvidal pressed Covington on his bizarre public statements, while he also claims that ‘Chaos’ refused to pay a coach at the gym

'Gamebred' has also not taken kindly to Covington's insults about his family and his religion

‘Gamebred’ has also not taken kindly to Covington’s insults about his family and his religion

‘I still haven’t gone public with him [at the time], I’m just trying to address him man-to-man. Like, let’s not go that route, bro. And if we are, first let’s just put the gloves on, beat the s*** each out of each other, and then get it out of the system, you know?

‘As soon as I turn my back and a couple people come with him, the show starts. [Covington yells back,] *I’ll f***ing kill you, bro! Don’t ever talk to me like that!’

‘Literally, I said my piece, turned around, started walking this way. This guy is f***ing shouting out at the mouth while we’re like 10 feet away. I turn around, I come to confront him — it’s too late. The whole gym’s involved because he made such a show, right?

‘So I tell him, there’s this place, this sushi place where we used to go to right here, and I tell him, ‘I’m going to go to the sushi place, bro. Dinner’s on me. Let’s go. I’ll be waiting for you.’ So I get in my car, go to the place — he’s not showing up. I get on Instagram, ‘Hey bro, if you want to collect your dinner, I’m over here.’ Blah, blah, blah.

Covington insists that the rift stems from jealousy at ATT over his meteoric rise in the UFC

Covington insists that the rift stems from jealousy at ATT over his meteoric rise in the UFC

‘He never showed up,’ Masvidal continued. ‘So I’ve always known, deep down inside, he’s a coward, man. And I just can’t wait for March 5 to expose it.’

Lambert reached the end of his tether at this point, and booted Covington out of the gym. As far as Covington is concerned, though, his irreversible rift with Masvidal stems from jealousy at the American’s rise, dating just after the Maia fight.

‘It was three years ago or two-and-a-half years ago when I was in the locker room and I’d just beat Rafael dos Anjos for the interim title and the President had called me that day,’ he explained.

‘I think he [Jorge Masvidal] saw all the hype I was generating and he didn’t like that. He has a big ego and he couldn’t put his ego aside for the friendship. He didn’t like that I was getting the spotlight more and I was rising above him in the ranks.’ 

Plenty of insults, trash-talk and venom have been espoused in both directions since Covington’s ATT departure, with the 34-year-old controversially using Masvidal’s kids and religion as a stick to beat him with. 

He lamented their fractious relationship but Masvidal has shown little willingness to patch things up

He lamented their fractious relationship but Masvidal has shown little willingness to patch things up

TALE OF THE TAPE 

COLBY COVINGTON

Age: 34

Place of birth: Clovis, California

Nickname: Chaos

Fights: 19

Wins: 16

– KOs: 4

– Submissions: 4 

Losses: 3

Height: 5ft11

Reach: 72ins

 

JORGE MASVIDAL

Age: 37

Place of birth: Miami, Florida

Nickname: Gamebred

Fights: 50

Wins: 35

– KOs: 16

– Submissions: 2 

Losses: 15

Height: 5ft11

Reach: 74ins

 

In that time, Chaos has registered two wins and two losses – both to Kamaru Usman in the UFC, while Masvidal has won three and lost two – again, both to the welterweight champion.

The bad blood is only going to increase between the pair as we creep closer to fight night in Vegas, but perhaps these final hours will allow for a period of inner reflection, a chance to consider: did it have to come to this?

‘Yeah, it hurt, I gave a lot to him, man,’ Covington told ESPN of the breakdown of his friendship. ‘I put my career on the back-burner at first. I was just his training partner. It wasn’t about my career. I didn’t even think about fights.

‘I would show up every single day for him. So, as soon as like, I felt like he backstabbed me then. It was a full turn after I won the interim title versus RDA. But after I felt that, and I started to feel it starting to happen, it just, it s**ked, man. 

‘It just, it hurts, man. We were so close. And to come to this, you can’t really put into words how it feels.’ 

Masvidal, though, has not yet arrived at the same point as his rival. 

‘I can’t respect him in any way, shape, or form,’ Masvidal said. ‘Kind of like Ben Askren. I don’t care for Ben Askren. If Ben Askren were at a place and he said something to me, we can either fight or not. If he’s cool, I’m cool. 

‘But with Colby, it will always for as long as we live, we’ll always have a problem just because he mentioned my religion and kids.’ 

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