Tyron Woodley's next fight will reportedly come against Kamaru Usman and not Colby Covington.
On Sunday, Ariel Helwani of ESPN.com reported the news, noting the 170-pound title fight will happen in Las Vegas on March 2 at UFC 235. Helwani explained the decision to go with Usman instead of Covington, despite the latter's "war of words with Woodley," came down to the UFC's "frustration" that Covington didn't fight anyone while Woodley was recovering from hand surgery.
Covington hasn't fought since he defeated Rafael Dos Anjos in June's interim welterweight title fight. By contrast, Usman beat Dos Anjos in November "and openly campaigned to fight any contender on short notice, which helped him leapfrog Covington in the eyes of the UFC brass."
Woodley is coming off a September victory over Darren Till and will defend his title for the fifth time since winning his belt in 2016.
The welterweight champion is 19-3-1, hasn't lost since 2014 and has established himself as one of the dominant forces in the sport, but Usman will not be a straightforward victory. The challenger sports a 14-1 record and turned heads by dominating Dos Anjos through a five-round victory in November.
Still, Covington appeared to be the next challenger to Woodley for some time, and Steven Marrocco of MMAjunkie cited sources who called his negotiations "a nightmare behind the scenes."
Marrocco noted Covington accepted title fights for November against Woodley and Nick Diaz, as well as with Woodley again in a scratched card for January. While UFC offered a fight with Usman, he turned it down because of worries he wouldn't be ready for a turnaround to face Woodley.
"UFC fans are dumb, but they aren't stupid," Covington said, per Marrocco. "If the marquee doesn't say Covington vs. Woodley, then it ain't a title fight. Print that."
It apparently won't say that, as Woodley will line up against Usman in his next bout.