Interim UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington has drawn the ire of many fight fans throughout his career within the sport. The mixed martial artist first heated fight fans when he called Brazil a “dump” and the UFC Sao Paulo crowd “filthy animals” back in 2017.
Another fighter to have played the heel character early in his career is mixed martial arts veteran Chael Sonnen. Speaking on The MMA Hour, Sonnen has come forward with his thoughts on Covington’s controversial statements.
“In many ways, he’s going to reinvent the sport. Is that for better or worse? Time will tell, and then you can decide. But people are going to start copying him. He’s the first guy ever to come out and say, ‘I’m just here to entertain you.’ So, yes, it’s an act, and yes, it’s a performance, but here it is and you guys seem to enjoy it. He’s the first guy. The only guy who ever did that in wrestling was The Rock. Everybody else stayed in character and held the old kayfabe montage.
“But he’s the first guy to come out and go, ‘Look, I’m just looking to entertain you. If the UFC isn’t going to bring me cameras, I’ll hire my own production crew, I’ll pay them, but I’m going to get this content recorded and out to the masses.’
“They’re scripted promos. He’ll admit they’re scripted promos — another thing that only The Rock would do, nobody else would ever admit to. And I think that he’s having fun. Now, I’ve known him since he was 11 years old — it’s going to be very hard for him to do anything that upsets me, because I just understand it a little bit differently.
“But I do think we’re going to see guys start to copy him. I think he’s an innovator in many ways. And again, is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’ll find out. But he does get credit, from me at least, for coming in and changing it. He is the first guy I’ve ever seen who has hired his own camera companies to come and go, ‘Hey UFC, you’re not going to do this for me? Great, no problem. I got some money, I’ll make a phone call. I’ll set the shot up myself.’ I think it’s interesting and it’s clearly working.”
“I don’t know [why people say it’s not working]. You’ll hear that. That is one of the stages of this. I remember going through it too, and I had some advice from ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who said, ‘Hey, over time, they’re going to love you for the same stuff they hate you for today.’ And, sure enough, if I wasn’t delivering vitriol at times, they were disappointed. The same stuff that they hated me for. And just what Roddy Piper had told me, turned out to be true. So, fans aren’t always going to recognize it.
“Fans don’t even know what they want at times. I hear fans say that they don’t want the talking and all of these things, but zero of those fans are watching these shows on mute. Even they don’t know, it’s a subconscious thing, they’re not aware that it is what they like. The fight takes 15 minutes. The build-up takes 90 days. It takes that for a reason. You and I are on this show with your massive audience for a reason, and we’re not throwing punches at one another. So, fans themselves don’t even know what it is they like and what it is they want, and they don’t need to. That’s not an insult. The fans get a pass. But it is up to the performer to be able to see through that and deliver his message.”