Former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington will headlines UFC on ESPN 5 in a pivotal welterweight battle with former champion Robbie Lawler. The fight will take place on Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Covington had been expected to be the first challenger to new UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who took the belt from Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 on March 2. That is now in jeopardy, as he'll first have to get past Lawler. Even then, his shot at the belt may not be set in stone with Ben Askren having entered the picture.
Covington (14-1) hasn't fought since winning the interim title in a UFC 225 bout with Rafael dos Anjos in June of 2018. He was later stripped of the interim designation when he declined a fight with Woodley at UFC 228 in September, citing the need for nasal surgery. Woodley instead fought and defeated Darren Till, but subsequently lost the belt to Usman.
He had a brief altercation with Usman following the latter's win over Woodley, so everything was aligned for an Usman vs. Covington bout. Usman, however, is currently sidelined and said he won't likely be ready to fight again until November. But even then, it sounds as if Usman isn't necessarily expecting Covington to be his first challenger.
"I should be ready to go by November. Whoever Dana White says is next. He’s the boss. If Askren looks good and that’s who the UFC wants, he’s next," Usman said in a comment via his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, to ESPN's Brett Okamoto.
Askren is undefeated at 19-0 and is a former Bellator and ONE champion. He made his Octagon debut at UFC 235, where he defeated Robbie Lawler, albeit in controversial fashion.
Though Askren could potentially jump the line and be Usman's first challenger, he has a difficult fight of his own to win before that is even a consideration. Askren is slated to fight Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas. If he wins and Covington wins, the UFC will have a difficult decision to make.
Lawler (28-13, 1NC) has lost three of his four most recent bouts, but is still a difficult fight for anyone. He has the wrestling chops to hang with Covington and has powerful hands that make him a constant knockout threat. Plus, being a former UFC champion, Lawler would certainly boost his chances of getting back into the title picture with a win over Covington.
Aside from confirmed Covington vs. Lawler, UFC officials on Tuesday announced several other bouts for the UFC on ESPN 5 fight card.
A light heavyweight clash between Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi, which had originally been slated for UFC on ESPN+ 11 on June 1, will take place at UFC on ESPN 5. Their original bout was cancelled when Latifi injured his back.
Other UFC on ESPN 5 bouts include an old-school favorites fight between lightweights Clay Guida and Jim Miller, Joaquim Silva vs. Nasrat Haqparast, Jordan Espinosa vs. Matt Schnell, Lauren Murphy vs. Mara Romero Borella, Antonina Shevchenko vs. Lucie Pudilova, Trevin Giles vs. Gerald Meerschaert, Darko Stosic vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu, Ramazan Emeev vs. Claudio Silva, and Scott Holtzman vs. Dong Hyun Ma.