LAS VEGAS — There could be no American dream more pure for Colby Covington than defeating a British fighter in front of Donald Trump.
In his eyes, the stage this week in and around the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was seemingly set for him to talk repulsive trash, win in style in front of his hero, and see the former President wrap the UFC welterweight championship belt around his waist at the MMA company’s final event of the year — something UFC boss Dana White said later would never happen.
The pro-MAGA crowd gave one of the biggest pops of the night when Trump walked into the T-Mobile Arena alongside White. Trump almost pulled Joe Rogan off his feet when shaking his hand, and then took to his seat while waving at fans.
Trump, too, wanted to see a big performance from a MAGA fighter. It would look good for his brand.
But the UFC champ Leon Edwards, on a near-decade long winning run, had other ideas.
Edwards, with his distance management, timed Covington with hook shots and controlled the real estate in the middle of the cage.
Covington fought too patiently, and too timidly, in the opening round when, really, he’d have been better served to try and control the pace of the fight himself.
By surrendering the pace to Edwards, the champion fought his fight, and scored a routine 10-9 in the first round.
Covington tried to land right hooks in the second, lunged with combos, and threw head kicks but barely anything landed.
In contrast, Edwards popped him with a jab, boxed with precision, and barely had to leave first gear.
It didn’t make for the most thrilling of contests. The only one to blame was Covington as, rather than take the fight to the champion, the challenger appeared to almost do the opposite — like he was scared to exchange and become a “head-shot dead” meme like former Edwards opponent Kamaru Usman.
Covington and Edwards exchanged takedowns in the third, momentarily rousing the crowd, but the overall pace was slow, methodical, and, over time, leg kicks from Edwards began taking their toll on Covington, whose white hamstrings began showing considerable bruising and swelling.
It was more than enough to inflict an American nightmare onto Covington.
The 35-year-old wrestler had cosplayed as a Founding Father while rocking a MAGA hat earlier this week at a press conference The Sporting Tribune attended in Las Vegas.
Covington abandoned all decency when he attempted to rile Edwards by bringing the champion’s childhood trauma to the fore.
Edwards’ father was murdered when young Leon was a young teenager, aged 13.
“I’m bringing you to the seventh layer of hell,” said Covington to Edwards. “We’ll say ‘what’s up’ to your dad while we’re there.”
Perhaps Covington just wanted to make Edwards fight with emotion rather than logic, but the champion fought with maturity, earning a well-deserved unanimous decision with scores of 49-46.
Covington would have wanted to have celebrated with Trump. Instead, 45 left the arena during Covington’s post-fight speech.
“This guy used my dad’s death as entertainment,” Edwards, who cried with rage at the time, said in the cage. “It took a lot for me to calm down and stay focused to win this fight.”
Speaking to The Sporting Tribune and other reporters backstage, White said Covington looked “slow and old.”
Given a chance to walk back his gross comments earlier in the week, Covington instead doubled down and said, without providing evidence, that Edwards’ deceased father was a sex trafficker.
He also ranted listlessly about Trump and COVID, which reporters just ignored to perhaps show that this schtick is as slow and old as he looked in the Octagon.
It is unclear where Covington, who Edwards dubbed a “coward,” goes from here.
Edwards, meanwhile, will move onto bigger and better things like possible fights against Belal Muhammad or Shavkat Rakhmonov in welterweight title defenses, or even a move to middleweight.