Colby Covington’s tumultuous tenure with the American Top Team gym has come to an end, as the UFC welterweight contender announced Wednesday that there has been a mutual parting of the ways.
“I’m affiliated with Colby Covington, Inc., as of now,” Covington told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a video interview. “I’m my own team.”
Tension had been growing at the gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, especially between Covington and ATT stars Jorge Masvidal, Dustin Poirier and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Gym owner Dan Lambert, who also has relinquished his role as one of Covington’s agents, instituted a rule that teammates couldn’t rip each other in public, but it was obvious that rule wouldn’t hold back the hostility in the gym.
“I felt bad because of Dan in that situation,” Covington said. “For months, he’s coming to me, ‘Dude, you’re putting me in a tough situation. Everybody wants you out. You’re making the gym uneasy.’ And I didn’t want to do that to him. I didn’t want to make his life tougher than it already is. He already has enough on his plate.
“I felt like it was the best for me to move on, find some other coaches, find some other training partners and go about my business how I got about my business. The biggest thing is that we’re in America, are we not entitled to our own opinion, don’t we have free speech?”
Covington emphasized that he doesn’t have a problem with Lambert, just with some of the fighters in the gym. Lambert told ESPN that it was mostly a mutual parting of ways and about Covington he said, “I still love the guy.”
Regarding his new gym setup, Covington said he wasn’t able to reveal the details yet, but it will be a team focused around him in South Florida.
“Good things take time to develop,” Covington said. “Things are being put in place. I’m putting a lot of hard work in behind the scenes.”
Covington has not fought since falling by fifth-round TKO in a welterweight title fight against Kamaru Usman at UFC 245 in December. He said he has been “begging” the UFC to return since then with the hope of an Usman rematch or a fight against Masvidal next, perhaps as early as this summer.
“I’ve been begging to come back and save the sports world, save America,” Covington said. “We’ve gotta see what the UFC wants to do. … You don’t know how motivated I’ve been, how hungry I’ve been, how much I want to rewrite every wrong.”
Covington (15-2) was on a seven-fight winning streak before losing to Usman. The California native and former Oregon State University All-American wrestler is a former UFC interim welterweight champion. ESPN has him ranked No. 3 among MMA welterweights.
Covington, 32, had trained at American Top Team since his MMA career started in 2012.
“I’m done with American Top Team,” Covington said. “We had a great run while it lasted. It was time to move on. The sun sets, the sun rises. It’s a new chapter.”
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