If it wasn't for his heel turn in 2017, Colby Covington may not be in the UFC today.
Covington, who will challenge Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title at UFC 245 on Saturday, was apparently informed that the promotion planned to part ways with him - win or lose - leading up to his fight with Brazilian Demian Maia in October 2017. At the time, the UFC didn't like his style and didn't believe he was entertaining, Covington said on the most recent edition of "The Candace Owens Show."
Heading into that bout, Covington was ranked No. 7 in the division and Maia was No. 3. Their fight was scheduled as the co-main event in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
"Chaos," who went on to beat Maia by unanimous decision in front of angry fans, knew he needed to do something big if he wanted to keep his job.
"So I go out there and I beat him up and leave him in a pool of blood in Sao Paulo, Brazil, his home city, and I shoot this promo on the Brazilians and I say, 'Hey, you guys are all a bunch of filthy animals, and Brazil, you're a dump,'" Covington told Owens.
Covington added, "I wasn't supposed to have my job, but that promo goes so viral on the internet that the UFC's like, 'We have to keep him. We have to re-sign him because that promo is so big.' "So that’s what saved my career, and that was the turning point of my career, and the rest has been history.”
Covington's infamous comments were the beginning of his "bad guy" persona, as he calls it, and they started his run as one of the most hated fighters in the sport.
Combined with his elite fighting ability, that persona has moved him from the status of a mid-tier prospect to a top-ranked contender. In 2018, Covington won the interim welterweight belt over Rafael dos Anjos, but he was stripped of it later that year due to an injury that stopped him from appearing in a title fight against Tyron Woodley.
Most recently, Covington returned from a 14-month layoff to defeat former champ Robbie Lawler at UFC Newark in August.