Colby Covington didn’t necessarily want to fight Demian Maia in hostile territory, but he knew it was his best chance to face the Brazilian submission specialist.
Covington and Maia will square off in the welterweight co-main event at UFC Fight Night 119 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday night. The evening’s main card will be televised on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
“I don’t want to fight here, but it was the only way to face Demian,” Covington recently said. “Fighting in his home, in front of his fans. I know how Brazilians are and I hope they are very loud. But after the fight, I know they will be in silence.”
Maia began his promotional tenure as a middleweight, eventually challenging for the title against Anderson Silva in 2010. The 39-year-old has arguably had his greatest success at 170 pounds, however. Since moving down a division in 2012, Maia has compiled a 10-3 record in the UFC. A seven-fight winning streak from 2014 to 2017 earned him a welterweight championship bout against Tyron Woodley, which Maia lost via unanimous decision after the reigning champ denied an astounding 21 takedown attempts.
While Maia is the more decorated fighter of the two, Covington is making his name as a person of interest in the welterweight division. The 29-year-old American Top Team product is 7-1 in the Octagon and is coming off the most notable triumph of his career to date, a unanimous verdict against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC Fight Night 111 in June.
Covington doesn’t think Maia will have much success when attempting to implement his grappling-based attack, and he expects the Brazilian to hang up his four-ounce gloves after their fight.
“He’s a legend, had a great career. That’s why I will retire him in the first round. And the Brazilian fans will thank me because he will be in my highlights until the end of my career,” Covington said. “He is a one-trick pony and I will catch him when he tries to take me down, submitting in the first round.”
Should he defeat Maia, Covington will set his sights on Woodley, who currently does not have a fight booked.
“I see myself as the uncrowned king of this division. This is my division,” Covington said. “When Tyron Woodley comes back from his injury, his time will come. My victory over Demian will scare Woodley.”
Covington is ranked No. 7 in the welterweight rankings, according to UFC.com, so it might require some more work to earn the No. 1 contender’s spot. A 170-pound pairing between ex-champ Robbie Lawler (No. 1) and Rafael dos Anjos (No. 5) at UFC on Fox 26 in December could be likely to produce the next title challenger, though Covington doesn’t necessarily see it that way.
“I think that a win will give me the chance to fight for the belt, since they are not having Robbie Lawler fight Woodley again, and Rafael dos Anjos shouldn’t be in this division,” Covington said. “I would send him back to lightweight if I fought him.”