LAS VEGAS -- As much as some would like to see it, Colby Covington isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
The foul-mouthed, polarizing standout picked up arguably the biggest win of his career against former friend Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-44, 50-45) in the main event of UFC 272 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. The crass Covington used his dominant wrestling, pressure and crafty striking to wear out Masvidal, who was able to gut it out until the end.
"It wasn't my best performance," Covington said in the postfight news conference. "Just a lot of emotions going into it. That was a real friend of mine at one point in my career. ... I let my emotions get the best of me. But it was still dominant. I showed the world how good I was."
Afterward, Covington called out another one of his former training partners, Dustin Poirier, whom he referred to as "Louisiana swamp trash." Covington said he wants to be "very active" this year and would like to compete again in July.
"I'll see you soon," Covington said, referring to Poirier. "You're next!"
Masvidal had moments in the second round and dropped Covington in the fourth. But other than that, Covington was in control for the majority of the fight. After the bell, Covington took out his mouthpiece, stuck out his tongue at Masvidal and blew him kisses.
"I should have had more moments like that, but I was off today," Masvidal said. "I didn't have it."
The fight was billed as one of the biggest grudge matches in UFC history and a rare non-title pay-per-view main event that didn't include either Conor McGregor or Nate Diaz. The crowd was behind Masvidal, cheering for a comeback. But there were some "Colby!" chants, as well.
Covington and Masvidal are former best friends, roommates and teammates. Masvidal acted as a mentor to Covington when Covington arrived at American Top Team in 2011 after an illustrious career wrestling at Oregon State. Covington helped Masvidal with his wrestling skills, while Masvidal helped teach Covington how to strike.
The two men cannot stand each other now. Covington believes Masvidal got jealous of his success and stabbed him in the back. Masvidal says Covington is phony and stiffed Masvidal's coach, Paulino Hernandez, on pay.
This fight really wasn't about rankings or titles. It was about settling a score. But Covington and Masvidal are elite athletes as well. Both are multiple-time UFC welterweight title challengers. Coming in, ESPN had Covington ranked No. 4 in the world at welterweight and Masvidal at No. 10.
Covington, the former UFC interim welterweight champion, landed six takedowns Saturday, giving him 67 for his career, the second most in UFC welterweight history. Covington outlanded Masvidal 94-67 in significant strikes and 218-90 in total strikes. Covington had 16:14 in control time over the 25-minute bout. Masvidal only outlanded Covington in significant strikes in the second round 31-20.
"He makes you worry about the takedown," UFC president Dana White said in the postfight news conference. "He fought the exact fight I thought he would fight tonight. You have to defend that takedown all night, so it sets up the striking for him."
Covington got a takedown relatively early in the first round against the cage and put Masvidal in a precarious, leg-ride position. Covington nearly had Masvidal's back on multiple occasions. In the second round, Masvidal landed some early leg kicks and elbows, with Covington going for a takedown. Masvidal hit on some nice punching combinations as the round went on and, most important, stayed off his back.
Covington got the takedown early in the third round, which was very much like the first. He did more damage with that third-round takedown, though, landing elbows and punches from guard. Covington came out firing with his own punching combinations in the fourth round. Masvidal saw an opening and dropped Covington briefly with a right hook but said afterward he was too worried about a Covington takedown to capitalize on it.
"I was tired," Masvidal said. "He was tired and hurt. That was my chance right there. ... I didn't take that opening."
In the fifth, Covington got an early takedown and Masvidal wasn't able to work his way back up the rest of the way.
"After a while, no matter how much you hate him, you've got to respect him," White said, adding, "He's a tough dude."
Covington (17-3) was coming off a close, unanimous-decision loss to Usman, ESPN's current pound-for-pound king, at UFC 268 last November. The California native, who lives and trains in Florida, has won nine of his past 11 fights, with both losses coming to Usman. Covington, 34, has dominant wins over two other former teammates, Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler.
"You could see in his body language he had nothing left in the fight," Covington said. "I was ready for another five rounds in the parking lot."
Masvidal (35-16), one of the UFC's biggest stars, lost to Usman in his previous two bouts coming in, both title fights. Most recently, Usman knocked Masvidal out at UFC 261 in April 2021. Masvidal, a Miami native, rose to superstardom with spectacular finishes over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in 2019. In the Diaz bout, Masvidal claimed the mythical "Baddest Motherf---er" title. Masvidal, 37, has been a pro fighter since 2003 and started his career fighting on the streets and in backyards.
"To lose to a punk like that, it sucks, you know?" Masvidal said. "If I fight another wrestler, I need to make sure I can deal with this thing. ... I need to fix the wrestling, man."
Masvidal said the bad blood between him and Covington was not put to rest, despite this fight.
"This idiot talked about my kids," Masvidal said. "He's a still a guy, if I saw him out in the streets, I'm going to give him everything I've got to break his f---ing jaw."