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The Fights

Colby Covington’s MAGA Heel Shtick Has Diminishing Returns, Even When He Wins

Colby Covington gets his hand raised in an empty arena.
Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images

UFC welterweight contender and embarrassing heel Colby Covington easily beat Tyron Woodley in Saturday night’s long-dreaded matchup between the former champ and the UFC’s most annoying fighter. It was a bummer but not a surprise to watch Covington win rounds by securing the clinch and snuffing the oxygen out of the fight while Woodley was too hesitant to let any shots fly. Covington ultimately finished Woodley with a TKO in the fifth round. The more interesting though equally cringeworthy development was a post-fight exchange between Covington and Kamaru Usman, the current 170-pound champion who broke Covington’s jaw last December and sent him fleeing from the cage.

As Usman ribbed Covington over his phone call with Donald Trump, Covington tried to cut a promo by pressing the “Get Racist” button. This shtick never really works, partially because Covington is an absolute void of charisma, but mostly because Usman can simply call scoreboard and remind his opponent, “I broke your face.” ESPN’s MMA channels promoted but later deleted this clip, probably because trash talk about tribes sending smoke signals is very much not Disney language.

As grating as Covington is, there’s not much evidence that his repugnance really moves the needle in any significant way beyond the occasional moment of attention from the president. He isn’t a particularly strong draw, he didn’t get PPV points for being in the UFC 245 main event, and the UFC fan base already skews more reactionary in the first place, so there’s a hard cap on the benefits of being a total shitbag.

Covington is hardly the only loud pro-Trump guy in the UFC, just the least subtle. His act is so obviously a ploy for attention—his own family is confused by it—that even if a decent segment of MMA fans really do loathe him, the animus isn’t of a sufficient volume or intensity that people will pay to root against him. Covington might be able to get more out of his heel act if he held the title belt, but then again, he had his face broken the only time he fought for it.