Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans told MMA Fighting the welterweight stars are set to headline UFC 272 on March 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with verbal agreements in place from the fighters. UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell first announced the pairing via ESPN.
Previously, a bantamweight title unifier between undisputed champ Aljamain Sterling and interim (and former undisputed) champ Petr Yan was set to headline the spring pay-per-view. But with the promotion’s announcement of the welterweight headliner, the title fight is likely to be moved to UFC 273 on April 9.
Late this past week, Masvidal, the No. 11 ranked welterweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, teased a potential fight with No. 2 Covington on Twitter, indicating it was the fourth attempted booking of the matchup. He called Covington a “f*cking coward” and added, “don’t p*ssy out now.”
They gonna call you and hopefully the 4th time is a charm you fucking coward. Don’t pussy out now @ColbyCovMMA— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) January 7, 2022
Masvidal and Covington have a long history inside and outside of the octagon and arrive at the matchup at pivotal points in their careers. Both challenged for the welterweight title this past year and came up short with Masvidal losing a pair of fights to champ Kamaru Usman – one via decision and the other via brutal knockout – and Covington losing a decision in his second setback to Usman after a TKO loss in 2019.
To stay in the title picture and deliver a lucrative grudge match for the UFC, the rivals will take aim at each other. Masvidal and Covington have a long history outside the ring, first as teammates at American Top Team in Florida. So close were the welterweights that Covington moved in with Masvidal, and the two regularly made appearances alongside each other at fights, even serving as each other’s hype men as both climbed the welterweight ranks.
A dispute over the alleged non-payment of a coach prompted a public split with Masvidal accusing Covington of short-changing his team, a charge Covington denied. The two took an increasingly hostile stance against each other, to the point where American Top Team implemented a rule against trash talking between teammates who weren’t signed to fight each other. The gym reportedly took extra steps to keep Covington and Masvidal apart after threats of violence, and Covington eventually left the team, criticizing the team’s new direction.
So far, Usman has been the major roadblock for both Covington and Masvidal, who’ve gone on impressive winning streaks before losing with the belt on the line.