We thought the UFC welterweight division was finally figured out, but it looks like we were wrong. Last month at UFC 225, Colby Covington won a hard-fought decision over Rafael dos Anjos to become the new interim UFC welterweight champion. We thought the winner of that fight was next in line for a title shot against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. We thought Covington vs. Woodley would happen sometime this fall. But think again, as this week whispers around the MMA circle were that Covington may be stripped of the interim belt, and Darren Till may get the next shot at Woodley instead.
This whole situation doesn’t make sense, starting with the most obvious fact, that Covington literally just won the interim belt last month. He may be injured and unable to fight Woodley when the UFC wants him to (at UFC 228 in Dallas, Texas) but to strip him just weeks after winning the interim belt seems wrong, and it makes you wonder how the UFC even views interim belts anymore. The belt was all fine and dandy when the UFC needed a second title fight to sell UFC 225, but then when it’s not convenient for the UFC the company is thinking about just taking it away and booking a completely new fight, when the point of that interim title bout at UFC 225 was to decide the next contender.
Aside from Covington being stripped not making much sense, it’s also pretty unfair that Till is being pegged as the next title challenger when he is coming off of an extremely-controversial decision win over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in a fight where he badly missed weight. We don’t even know if he can even make the championship weight of 170lbs and yet the UFC is considering him for a title shot because he is a bigger draw for the promotion, even though he doesn’t deserve the title shot. If anything, with Covington out Kamaru Usman — a winner of eight straight fights in the Octagon — should be the next guy in line. But once again, we are seeing the UFC is an entertainment company first and a sport second, and that’s why Till might be in the running to jump the line.
As far as the champion Woodley goes, at this point the fans just want to see him actually fight again. Yes, it’s true that the year he won the belt he fought four times in a 12-month span and that was mighty impressive, but since then he hasn’t fought at all. It’s time for Woodley to fight, and UFC 228 is the perfect date. But if Covington just needs a few more months, then the UFC really should just delay the bout until then, say for UFC 230 in NYC or UFC 231 in Toronto. Even though it’s an interim belt, Covington won that belt and he deserves to get a title fight. Yes, it’s not in the UFC’s interest that Covington is hurt right now, but taking his interim title away is really going to upset fans, who are already at wits end about how the UFC just throws together these interim title fights whenever they want.
I really thought the introduction of an interim title at 170lbs would help the UFC welterweight division out, but once again the weight class is a mess. Woodley seems to finally be ready and good to go but now the No.1 contender Covington is hurt. The next deserving No. 1 contender in Usman is being passed over because of his grappling-heavy style for Till, a top contender for sure but also a guy who didn’t make weight his last fight.
You shouldn’t be rewarding a guy who missed weight with a title shot, and we saw why with the recent Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker fight. The UFC should just be patient and realize Woodley vs. Covington is the fight to make, the fight the fans want to see, and the fight that makes sense based on merit. The UFC should wait a few months and get that fight booked before making the decision to strip Covington a belt he earned just last month. I get the UFC loves Till, but giving him the next title shot would really send the welterweight division backwards again, and just when we thought it was all figured out.
What would you do with the welterweight title picture if you were running the show?