Article content continued
There’s a world in which Saturday night’s fight doesn’t carry these political and racial implications, and a matchup with Woodley and Covington would still be a big deal.
Woodley is the former champion coming off two straight losses. A win keeps him in the mix at the top of the 170-lb. division; a loss will likely permanently relegate the 38-year-old to the tier just below the top contenders.
The stakes are high for Covington, too. In the end, he got properly smashed up by Usman in their title fight last December, but it was incredibly close until the fifth round. A win over a former champion like Woodley might be enough to set up a rematch with Usman for the belt.
The competitive stakes should be enough on their own to get fans interested. It’s 2020, though, and issues of systemic racism and politics in general can’t be ignored.
The big news from the UFC this week was that the promotion had signed Michael Chandler, who was Bellator’s lightweight champion until making the move.
The UFC clearly thinks highly of Chandler, too. He was immediately slotted in as the backup should either lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or challenger Justin Gaethje need to be removed from their title fight, which is scheduled for Oct. 24.
Chandler was the biggest name to hit the MMA free-agency market in some time, and he adds depth to a lightweight division that is already extremely heavy on contenders.
With the UFC not willing to pay Dustin Poirier what he was asking for to take on Tony Ferguson, either guy might be a decent first fight for Chandler. But one way or another he’s not going to get a tuneup fight in his debut.