Colby Covington is gearing up to defend the UFC welterweight title for a second time. At least, that's what he's telling people.
All of the promotional material for Saturday night's UFC 245 card in Las Vegas lists Kamaru Usman as the defending welterweight champion and Covington as Usman's first title challenger, but Chaos sees things differently.
He's adamant that the belt he won by defeating Rafael dos Anjos in 2018—an interim title—is still the welterweight division's ultimate prize. He maintains that he successfully defended that prize when he defeated Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision in August and that he will do so again against Usman on Saturday.
"This will be my second title defense," Covington told Bleacher Report. "Everybody knows I'm the people's champion and I'm America's champion and I'm Donald Trump's favorite fighter. I have the most prestigious title in all of sports, and Saturday night I'm going to defend that title again."
Comments of this kind have become common from Covington, but they will do nothing to change the fact that he will walk out first Saturday night and that announcer Bruce Buffer will introduce him as the challenger.
Yet even without the recognition of the rest of the world, he has the confidence of a champion.
In the buildup to UFC 245, fight fans the world over have marvelled at the similarities between Usman and Covington—both in terms of their styles and stats. They are tremendous wrestlers. Both have bottomless gas tanks and dizzying striking outputs. They are about the same height and about the same age. Both are 15-1 overall, with eight wins by decision and seven by stoppage. They have each beaten the only fighter the other has lost to. They both hold recent decision wins over Demian Maia and Dos Anjos.
The list goes on and on, and when it's unfurled, it gives you the impression that we are in for an incredibly competitive matchup Saturday night.
Not so, says Covington.
"We're not similar in any way," he insisted. "I'm D1. He's D2. There's a reason for that."
Covington is talking about his and Usman's NCAA wrestling backgrounds. Unlike his claim that he's the true welterweight champion, this one isn't up for debate.
"It's a huge difference," he explained. "I'm a different level wrestler than he's ever faced. For most of his fights, he has to take the guy to the ground to control the fight so he can relax and get breaks. He's not going to be able to do that against a guy like me.
"When he fights a guy like me who's a seasoned striker as well—a guy who just put a strikes record on the face of the most dangerous guy in the division, Robbie Lawler—he's not going to know what to do. He's going to look for a way out. I promise you that."
While Covington is adamant he will have the wrestling advantage in his fight with Usman, he claims he won't lean on that advantage and that he intends to punish his foe on the feet instead.
"I'm not looking to take him down," he said. "I'm looking to knock his head into the front row and leave him unconscious and send his ass off to the ER."
Suffice it to say that Covington is predicting a decisive win Saturday. But that will not be where is work ends.
The fight world is already buzzing about a matchup between Covington and Jorge Masvidal. The pair trained together at American Top Team for many years and called themselves best friends for a time. Over the past year, however, they have devolved into bitter rivals—that, or they're doing a good job of pretending.
Covington, for his part, claims punishing Masvidal is his No. 1 priority after Usman.
"That's the priority, but he's not going to want to fight," he said of his former friend. "We trained together for 10 years. The guy is a complete jobber. He's a journeyman. I've literally never lost one second of one round against him [in training], and that is literally, truly not fake news.
"I just don't think he's going to want to fight me. He's going to want to pivot and fight that little leprechaun [Conor McGregor]. He's already trying to pivot and fight some boxers. He's looking for one last paycheck because he's at the end of the road. I don't expect to ever fight him because he's going to be scared and run away."
If a fight with Masvidal doesn't materialize, Covington sees other options. Namely former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who can't seem to convince the world he's retired, and reigning lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, whom Covington refers to by another name.
"I could definitely see myself fighting a guy like GSP," Covington said. "He keeps wanting to come back and fight one more fight, so I would like to lure him out and show the world that I'm the greatest welterweight of all time.
"Also, Kabob, from Russia. The sheep-lover. He's a possibility."
Whomever he ends up fighting, Covington is forecasting a big year in 2020, a calendar packed with high-profile fights and ceaseless trash talk. That's bad news for his throngs of haters.
"There's no doubt about it that 2020 will be the best year of my career," he said. "I'm in my prime. I've never been better. I'm hungrier than ever, and I'm ready to keep going out there and shutting people up."
It all starts with Usman—the champion Covington is calling a challenger—on Saturday night.
"I promise you: I'm going to melt this snowflake just like the rest," he vowed.