Saturday 19 September 2020

Tyron Woodley Versus Colby Covington: As Much a Culture Clash as it is a Confrontation of Mixed Martial Artists

The clash between Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington, two elite fighters of the welterweight division of the U.F.C. has long been anticipated, albeit that the fight has lost a good deal of lustre since Woodley lost his title and Covington lost his title challenge to Kamaru Usman, the man who dethroned Woodley.

Nonetheless, one intriguing aspect of the impending duel is how both men represent something of a culture clash of contemporary America. Woodley, who hails from Ferguson, Missouri, has always been outspoken about racial matters and has consistently supported Black Lives Matter. Covington, on the other hand, has, at least since he re-invented his "persona" a few years back, projected himself as a Trump supporter who is an American patriot in the "Make America Great Again" mould.

It reminds me of how Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier both represented the sharply divided mood in America at the time of their world heavyweight title bout in March 1971. The difference is that both Ali and Frazier were co-opted into representative symbols even though both did not subscribe to either side of the divide.

Ali, who was still a member of the pro-Black Separatist Nation of Islam, did not subscribe to the "Counter-Culture", and Frazier, a non-political man who had migrated to Philadelphia from the Carolinas was no dye-in-the-wood American patriot.

But both Woodley and Covington actively promote the "ideological" causes to which they are associated.

The Woodley-Covington fight, is of course, no way comparable to the magnitude of Ali-Frazier I,  which was described as "The Fight of the Century", the third world heavyweight bout to be so designated during the 20th century; the first two having been Jack Johnson’s fight with Jim Jeffries in 1910, and Joe Louis against Max Schmeling II in 1938. Johnson, a carefree

It is not even close to being the biggest UFC bout this year, although it is a fairly well-anticipated one within the mixed martial arts community, not least because of the personal animus borne by both men to the other.

Woodley, Covington's former mentor, has consistently spoken of being the recipient of a stream of unwarranted barbs issued by the younger man, who has made himself into a figure of hate among many fans. Covington, on the other hand, has constantly referred to Woodley’s discourses on racism as an unjustified form of “race-baiting”.

The winner, it appears will, apart from salvaging his career, be placed in the inevitable position of being vindicated in regard to his position taken in the long standing grudge, while affirming his stance on the cultural divide that is so pervasive in present day America.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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