When it was recently revealed that Colby Covington was booked to fight Robbie Lawler in the main event of UFC Newark, we should have all got the hint that maybe Covington won’t be the next challenger for UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Instead, there’s a good chance Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal could be next in line with a standout performance this weekend at UFC 239.
Based on merit, it’s hard to say Covington doesn’t deserve the next title shot. Not only is he the former interim champ, having lost his belt due to injury and not due to a loss, but he’s also 9-1 in the UFC and riding a six-fight win streak in the Octagon. Hate him or love him, Covington is someone who gets the fans talking and the media stirring. He checks a lot of boxes on what the UFC looks for in a title challenger.
That being said, we all know that UFC president Dana White and Covington don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Covington was upset when he was stripped of the interim title and passed over in favor of Usman to fight Tyron Woodley at UFC 235. He even went so far as to video tape White in a Las Vegas casino and call him out publicly. At the time, it was said the two had a good talk and that Covington and White were back on each other’s good sides. But a few months later and it looks like there’s still unresolved issues between the two.
That’s where Askren and Masvidal come in. It’s funny, because it wasn’t long ago that White absolutely despised Askren. Now that he’s in the UFC, it appears White is singing a different tune. He realizes that Askren could be a big star for the UFC. His ability to trash talk is on the Chael Sonnen level and his 19-0, 1 NC MMA record is incredible. He might be a wrestler, but Askren has been finishing his opponents lately. It sure looks like White and the UFC are a big fan of his and he’s been giving yet another main card spot on a Jon Jones-headlined card to help build his profile. And Askren is making good on it, telling fans he will call Usman out if he wins.
The same goes for Masvidal. At one point in time he was just a gatekeeper, but with a KO win over Darren Till in his last fight he’s emerged as a top contender. He’s also someone who knows how to talk on the mic and he backs it up in the Octagon. The win over Till helped Masvidal grow his profile with his famous “three piece and a soda” jab, and now it appears the UFC believes he could be a star, as well, giving him and Askren a marquee spot on the UFC’s biggest PPV of the year. That’s telling.
There’s still a lot that can happen between now and November, when Usman is supposed to come back, but at this point it looks like Covington is going to get passed up for the winner of Askren and Masvidal. It’s not fair, but it’s hardly the first time this has happened in the UFC before. Just look at Tony Ferguson, who had his title shot taken from him as well. Injuries happen in this sport and they are unfortunate, and they might cost Covington his title shot. But if that’s the case, it’s not like Askren or Masvidal wouldn’t be worthy of fighting for the belt. They would both be worthy title challengers, and at this point it looks like their matchup this weekend at UFC 239 is going to have high stakes with a likely title shot on the line.