Chael Sonnen calls for Colby Covington to be next man in line at 185 pounds: ‘There’s opportunity and guys aren’t seizing it’


Take a look at the UFC’s upcoming schedule as well as the welterweight rankings, and one thing is clear: Right now, Colby Covington is the odd man out.

Covington is widely considered to be one of the top three welterweights in the world but has effectively been stuck in limbo as the rest of the division figures itself out following Leon Edwards’ dramatic come-from-behind win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 278. While most of the top 170 players are booked, or have tentatively been set up in potential matchups for the future, Covington remains on the sidelines after his victory over Jorge Masvidal, and there has been little talk of him returning.

In the eyes of Chael Sun, it’s a crime. However, it’s also an easily fixable crime.

“Colby Covington is the clearest No. 1 contender that this sport has, but he doesn’t get to fight for the title,” Sonnen said on The MMA Hour.

“Colby is in a unique spot, and he’s not the easiest guy to get in the ring. All of a sudden you need feature matches, it’s got to be a main event. He deserves certain things. He deserves them as the No. 1 contender or the former interim champion or the guy who beat the BMF that didn’t get recognized. To get Colby you will have to promise [of a title shot being next]..

“Some stuff has been wildly –I don’t mean to be unfair but it was very close for Colby Covington,” Sonnen said. “I think you’re going to have to sweeten the pot to get him in there. There aren’t many players remaining on the board. We’re told that Gilbert Burns is going to be busy with Jorge Masvidal, I know that story goes back and forth. However, Belal Muhammad has been busy with Sean Brady.

“I just think there’s opportunity right now,” Sonnen concluded. “I think there’s opportunity and guys aren’t seizing it.”

Where that opportunity lies, according to Sonnen, is in the middleweight division.

Sonnen first advocated for the idea of Covington moving up in weight and challenging for the 185-pound title against Israel Adesanya back in March.

Covington was quick to embrace the idea. However, the UFC ultimately decided that Jared Cannonier would be rewarded with the next chance at Adesanya’s belt.

Sonnen claimed that Covington approached the UFC to present his proposal, but Dana White, UFC President and CEO, vetoed the idea due to past comments made by Covington.

“Colby came out and he was talking to people, he was trying to find himself a fight and he said, ‘I’ll even go down to 155,'” Sonnen said. “Because he said those words, somewhere that planted a seed where Dana goes, ‘OK, he’s not on the big side of ’70, he’s on the small side of ’70.’ So when we brought Dana the suggestion of letting your No. 1 contender move up, use that golden ticket but cash it in at middleweight, Dana just wasn’t open to it. He went, ‘Ah, if I move him anywhere, I’m going to move him to ’55.’

“That was legit. I had spoken to Colby. Colby was keen to fight, and use the ticket, if you like. I am sure that Colby is not real, but it is true. 1 contender who couldn’t get a championship fight — and use it for Izzy. And it was to the point that Izzy was responding.”

The UFC instead booked Adesanya vs. Cannonier, which resulted in a lopsided win for Adesanya that left the champ under fire about the pace of his recent bouts.

Adesanya is now set to face old rival and former GLORY kickboxing champion Alex Pereira in a highly-anticipated grudge match at UFC 281, which takes place Nov. 12. Pereira previously defeated Adesanya twice in kickboxing and even scored a brutal knockout over Adesanya. The fight is drawing mass interest, however the middleweight division is currently lacking a true No. 1 contender who could step up next if Adesanya wins.

With Edwards and Usman likely expected to tie up the welterweight title for the foreseeable future with a trilogy match, and the majority of the other contenders at 170 pounds already busy elsewhere, Sonnen believes the time is right for the UFC to revisit the idea of Adesanya vs. Covington if “The Last Stylebender” emerges victorious at UFC 281.

“Colby were all in favor of it,” Sonnen stated.

“I don’t see anybody [else] positioning themselves for Izzy, largely because they’re all scared of him. Nobody’s positioned for Pereira because they don’t think that he can win. This is a missed opportunity. It’s a real miss for middleweights right now.

“It’s just one of these spots, I think that there’s some real misses at middleweight.”