Inside story of Kamaru Usman’s rivalry with Colby Covington ahead of rematch

Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington will renew their heated rivalry tonight atop a stacked card at UFC 268.

Covington will make his second attempt at dethroning the 'Nigerian Nightmare' this weekend having fallen short in 2019.

But it isn't just a world title on the line with both fighters' reputation at stake as the rivalry rumbles on heading into their second showdown.

Although Usman has tried to bury the hatchet in recent days, Covington has insisted there is still bad blood as he remains adamant the first meeting was stopped prematurely.

Long-term rivalries regularly appear in the UFC but with both fighters arguably at the peak of their powers, the second clash could be a modern-era classic.

Here, with accounts from both fighters, we take a look at a welterweight rivalry rekindled…

Origins

Usman and Covington have arguably reached their peaks at the same time with Usman currently the leading athlete in the welterweight division.

He made his UFC debut in a tough match-up with Brit Leon Edwards after winning the Ultimate Fighter with a submission victory over Hayder Hassan.

And he was soon met with trash talk from Covington who began his career in a similar vein to Usman with consecutive victories.

The Nigerian detailed the origin of their rivalry – an airport meeting after Covington had mocked him on social media.

He planned to confront Covington but was met with a pleasant reaction from him before the American's famous persona reached new heights as he continued to mock the Nigerian.

"I came to the airport that day fully prepared to smack him up," Usman told the Las Vegas Journal ahead of their first meeting.

"But I said you know what I want to find out who I am so I confronted him, but he was an extremely nice guy. So he made me feel like a jerk. But then after that three weeks later he started running his mouth again on social media.

"And he said stuff like 'this guy doesn't wanna fight me' and that was when I realised this guy was a crown."

Usman also claimed that Covington rejected four different offers to fight him during their rise up the welterweight division, which Covington firmly denies and labelled the Nigerian a "little b****".

Rivalry confirmed for UFC 245

With stakes already high, Usman and Covington finally agreed to meet each other in the cage at UFC 245 in December 2019.

Prior to the fight Covington had sparked a new nickname for Usman after basking in the glory of his interim title victory over Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 225.

He labelled him 'Marty Fakenewsman' after accusing him of faking injury to avoid facing him.

“Dude, he’s f****** fake news, that’s why he’s Marty Fakenewsman," Covington said. "He never got surgery. That’s the spoiler. I’m the king of spoilers. Spoiler alert.

"Kamaru Usman did not get surgery. It’s a fake injury. A fake excuse. He’s just trying to delay the inevitable. He knows what’s coming. He knows what’s in front of him now.”

With the grudge match confirmed, fight week lived up to the pre-fight billing with the press conference extremely heated.

Covington played up to his persona as a Donald Trump supporter and enjoyed a good relationship with the former president and his family.

Usman largely laughed off insults fired across the table from Covington who also read lines from Trump's book during the press conference.

The pair were held back from initiating a violent brawl but it remained clear that blood was boiling in both corners.

At the weigh-in tension continued to rise, and it became clear that what would go down in the cage would be one of the most grudge-bearing contests in recent times.

Usman wins the first fight

What would unfold at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was the start of an epic rivalry between the welterweight division's two leading stars.

Usman was taken into deeper waters than he had ever been before, taken on in a slug-fest by Covington who refused to relent as he went toe-to-toe with the Nigerian.

The 34-year-old was forced to reach into new-found reserves to prevail over Covington, finding a huge burst of energy in the final round to end the fight in astonishing fashion with a burst of powerful strikes forcing the referee to step in.

Usman was not notorious for his striking game having been considered one of the best wrestlers in the UFC alongside Covington.

But the controversy from the rivalry had only just peaked with Covington reacting angrily to the stoppage claiming the bout had been stopped prematurely and immediately began his pursuit of a rematch.

"I made a mistake, a tactical error, my hands were down and I slipped on a banana peel," Covington said, regarding the stoppage. "But we went to the mat and that's a position I've been in [wrestling] since I was a 5-year-old kid. I'm on a single leg. I'm on a double leg.

"We signed up for fighting. We're not playing volleyball, bro. We're not playing basketball. We're playing fighting. It's kill or be killed in that moment."

Usman also fractured Covington's jaw with the stiff punches in the breathtaking final round, which Covington denies but which has been proven by medical records.

Path to the rematch

Usman and Covington seemed destined to meet again but for the time being took different paths.

Usman continued his domination of the welterweight division with victories over Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns.

Covington continued his renaissance by cementing his place once again as the No.1 contender for Usman's title with a stoppage victory of Tyron Woodley.

Immediately after his victory at the back end of last year, Covington reiterated his claim to a rematch and demanded UFC president Dana White make the fight.

Usman then defeated Masvidal for a second time and turned his attention to a rematch with Covington, even if his rival claimed otherwise.

He insisted that the company had threatened to strip Usman of his belt in a bid to force the rematch through for UFC 268.

He told ESPN : "It’s been such a journey. It’s been tough. It wasn’t supposed to happen. They did not want it to happen. His manager, they were refusing.

"They were trying to find every way in the book out of fighting this rematch. They didn’t want this fight and the only reason they have to take it is the UFC gave them no choice."

Usman quickly moved to rubbish the claims but was now set for a repeat of the test that nearly threatened to end his era of domination in the welterweight division.

Who wins this weekend- Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below

Usman and Covington collide again at UFC 268

Now we find ourselves with the anticipation of the first bell all over again with Usman and Covington set to renew their rivalry.

Usman has faced competent challenges to his welterweight crown which he has dismissed in dominant fashion since his battle with Covington in 2019.

But after also previously being labelled "Marty Snoozeman" the 'Nigerian Nightmare' has consolidated his ongoing legacy with the sport by displaying a new dimension to his attributes with heavy hands and raw punching power.

Covington has largely been inactive since the first fight, which he has blamed on the other contenders avoiding his call-outs to fight.

But he will now receive his chance at the ultimate redemption in a bid to finally reach the pinnacle of the 170lb division.

The champion has moved to calm tensions between the pair in recent days, insisting that there is no blood from his side of the meeting.

Although Covington has promised to finally "sleep" his opponent in a fight that could end up in a brutal slug-fest boxing match, or a technical wrestling encounter on the floor.

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