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SportsColumnistsMark La Monica

The prideful pace of UFC fighter Colby Covington

Kamaru Usman, right, fights Colby Covington in a

Kamaru Usman, right, fights Colby Covington in a mixed martial arts welterweight championship bout at UFC 245 on Dec. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. Credit: AP/John Locher

Put aside your preferences for the persona and the political propaganda that accompanies the name Colby Covington, as hard as that may be to do in our current climate.

As UFC 268 fight week rolls into New York City next week, plenty of opportunities will present themselves for you to react to over-the-top work in front of a microphone or camera by Covington. But for the next few moments and paragraphs, please try to compartmentalize the fighter from the fervor.

When you do, what comes through is a mixed martial artist unlike most others in the sport, someone with an indefatigable pace and an unrelenting continuance to strike.

Sure, there are fighters who push the action, who have cardio for days, who look nearly as fresh in round five as they do in round one. And then there’s Covington.

"There’s definitely a lot of pride in that. There's not a lot of people that could ever do this, without using steroids or chemicals in their body to be able to do it," Covington told Newsday. "I take a lot of pride in being one of, probably the only person in the history of mankind that has this type of output and never put a steroid in his body."

That output will be on display once more on Nov. 6 when Covington again challenges welterweight champion Kamaru Usman for the title at UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden.

The first fight to come up when parsing the pace portion of all that is Colby Covington is his 2019 fight against Robbie Lawler. He threw 541 strikes in that bout, setting what then was a UFC record for the most strikes in a fight. (Max Holloway broke that record 16 months later when he threw 746.)

Covington pointed to his fight two years earlier against Dong Hyun Kim as the moment when he began making a conscious effort to unleash himself more inside the cage.

"When I fought him, it was a very high pace. And I just remember, wow, man, like, I just went three rounds with this guy, and just a crazy pace, a lot of wrestling, a lot of hard work a lot of grinding," Covington said. "I just realized, I have more to give, I need to be more efficient with my energy in that UFC octagon, and I need to get more out of myself, and I need to have more output because I'm getting done with these fights and I still have tons of energy. It feels like I'm just getting done with one round."

Covington threw 154 strikes in that three-rounder, which seems more like a warmup for him compared with what he’s done since. In the five fights since beating Kim by unanimous decision, Covington has averaged 376 strikes per fight. Four of those bouts were five-rounders, but consider his per-round average went from 51 in the Kim fight to 94 over the next five bouts. That's 19 punches per minute, or one every 3.2 seconds. Just doing the math requires a breather.

"It’s been just a practice to really make sure that I'm getting the most out of myself and emptying the tank because I wasn't emptying the tank before in my career," Covington said.

Have we mentioned the takedowns yet? Yeah, the former two-time Pac-10 champion and All-American wrestler for Oregon State does a lot of those, too. In the Lawler fight, he found the time to attempt 18 takedowns (and hit on 10 of them) in between the 541 strikes. He also landed seven of 18 takedown attempts when he beat Rafael dos Anjos for the UFC interim lightweight championship before facing Lawler. (He also threw 346 strikes in that bout.)

It's as much a mental commitment as it is a physical out to generate that type of output. To continue to offer up strikes, whether they land or not, in the face of being on the receiving end as well.

"People realize that they can do anything in their life that they put their mind to, but they have to be mentally strong," Covington said. "They have to be able to get comfortable with the uncomfortable."

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