Moments after Michael Chiesa completed a dominant performance against Neil Magny in the UFC on ESPN 20 headliner, he turned his attention to perhaps the welterweight division’s most reviled star.
“The election is over,” Chiesa said in his post-fight interview. “Colby Covington, your schtick is done. I want you next, boy.”
That Wednesday happened to be the end of Donald Trump’s term in the White House and the official inauguration of new U.S. President Joe Biden made the timing that much more perfect, especially considering that Covington has been an avid Trump supporter the past few years.
For Chiesa, the callout was more about achieving his goals in 2021 than it was about one-upping Covington. He believes that a matchup with the controversial former interim champion could propel him closer to the top of the 170-pound division.
“I want two more fights this year, I want to end this year as the No. 1 contender,” Chiesa said. “I want fights in the Top 5. I think Colby is the toughest fight for me stylistically, physically and mentally. He brings that heat in the buildup. I want to test myself.
“What’s the point of striving to be the best if you’re going to take the easy way to the top? There is no easy way to the top. I’d rather try to ascend the steepest peaks to get to that great view. I think Colby Covington is the toughest test for me. I’m trying to be the best in the world and fight the best guys.”
Chiesa already passed one significant test while improving to 4-0 as a welterweight in UFC competition, as he went a full 25 minutes in the cage for the first time in his professional career.
“I’m feeling fatigued, but I knew not to listen to my head. I knew to listen to my teammates. They instructed me how to push through the fatigue,” Chiesa said. “After that fourth round, I was tired. He had me in that inverted triangle and fatigue was really starting to set in. When my coach gets in my face and tells me this next round is all about heart, it makes me want to cry right now. He said the right things to just get me off that stool and get me to push through that fifth round. That was almost my best round of the whole fight.”
Chiesa dominated the majority of the contest through his grappling, landing four of six takedowns and logging 15:21 of control time, per UFCStats.com. He also held a 93-to-52 edge in total strikes.
“I’m just glad I was able to show some new wrinkles in my game,” he said. “I was able to stick to Plan A: grappling, that’s my base. I was able to blend in some striking and mix things up. For the most part, I stayed disciplined. My team told me to stay in a good stance. You don’t show your fatigue and you do that with your stance and motion.”
Chiesa appears to be a formidable test for much of the UFC’s welterweight division. It’s not easy to look good against Magny, who entered Wednesday’s card on a three-bout winning streak of his own. Even if a desired showdown with Covington doesn’t come to fruition, Chiesa should be positioned to accept another high-profile matchup for his next Octagon appearance.
“I showed guys I’m improving. I showed guys I’m dangerous,” he said. “I definitely didn’t break Neil Magny. That would be a stupid thing to say. He’s an unbreakable guy. He’s as tough as they come. His strength is cardio and I was able to stay on pace with him. We pushed each other to our limits. He’s a great human being and competitor. We’re both going to be better fighters after that fight.
“It feels good to get my first four-fight win streak in the UFC and get my first main event win. It’s surreal. I’m getting closer to my dream.”
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