Colby Covington doesn’t expect many crowds to be in his favor.
Since calling an arena full of Brazilian fans “filthy animals” after a 2017 victory, Covington has fully leaned into being the UFC’s top troll. He’s used social media and public appearances to disparage fellow fighters with vulgarity and crass, while also showing his unwavering support for President Donald Trump and the Trump family.
Covington knows his persona comes with a backlash, and that’s more than OK for the former interim welterweight champion.
“I always appreciated boos in the arena more than cheers. Boos are hard to come by. A lot of times with people you can’t get that emotion out of them,” Covington said. “For me to get that kind of emotion out of people is truly special.”
In his terms, Saturday could be a "truly special" day for Covington as he faces former champ Robbie Lawler in the main event at UFC Newark at Prudential Center. The main card is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on ESPN.
Covington, who visited President Trump at the White House and believes members of the Trump family will attend his fight Saturday, is bringing his act on the road with him this week. Before leaving his home in South Florida, he posted on Instagram mentioning the “miserable hags of the Northeast” and bringing “his own talent,” all while flanked by a pair of bikini-clad women and wearing his standard “Make America Great Again” red hat.
“I’ve never met someone that booed me or hated me that was doing better than me,” Covington said. “These are usually people that are behind me and wishing they were in my spot and they just want to hate because it’s the easiest thing to do these days.”
While Covington said he uses outside hate as fuel in training, he understands that everything is equal once the cage door closes, and he’ll be locked in with a legend on Saturday.
“There’s something special about Robbie Lawler. He’s really one of the greats all-time in the sport. Next to myself, he’s probably the biggest name in the division,” Covington said. "Everybody loves to watch him fight and it just seems like he never ages. He looks better than ever physically and he’s exciting.”
Covington said he considers Lawler, a former training partner at American Top Team, to be the last true champion at welterweight, even though Tyron Woodley beat Lawler in 2016 and successfully defended his title four times. Covington, who hasn’t fought since winning a now-stripped interim title last June, chose not to wait for a shot at current champion Kamaru Usman, instead taking a chance to fight Lawler on the big stage.
“I think it was important for me to take this fight to show the people there’s a reason I have the label ‘People’s Champion.’ I fight for the people now and I have to put on a show for the people.”
Convincingly winning this fight, Covington hopes, will help him secure a marquee title fight with Usman at UFC 244 across the river at Madison Square Garden.
As for those boos? Having Lawler on the other side doesn’t help, but Covington knows where he is fighting, and the politics of the region could sway the crowd even further away.
“I’m definitely expecting the crowd to be kind of against me, and that’s OK, though, because they love Robbie anyways. He’s always been a fan favorite, people always are going to cheer for him over me.
“But if people hate me because I support the Trumps, well, they’re winners and that’s what we do best.”