Colby Covington not getting title shot without going through Robbie Lawler
UFC 244 is already shaping up to be the biggest Mixed Martial Arts event of 2019.
Colby Covington will have to get through one of the toughest fighters in the business to earn an invite to the year's biggest pay-per-view showpiece.
We already have the prospect of Conor McGregor returning to action, at Madison Square Garden, against the winner of Nate Diaz' bout with Anthony Pettis.
Jon Jones is up against Thiago Santos at UFC 239, on July 7, but wants another fight or two in 2019 and has bolted his hand up for an MSG appearance.
And you can now add a welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and one of four top talents to the mix.
Usman, who took the 170lbs belt from Tyron Woodley, is currently rehabbing an injury and unable to fight but his management team has released a statement teeing him up for a first title defence at UFC 244:
That statement will not be music to the ears of Colby Covington. The 31-year-old is the No.2 ranked welterweight and had an interim belt in the division, after defeating Rafael Dos Anjos, before injury saw him stripped of it. He is 15-1 and riding a six-fight win streak but has not fought since June 2018.
The UFC want Covington to fight again before he gets a pop at Usman, and they just happen to have a main event in Newark that needs filling. The Californian has signed a bout agreement to face former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler on August 3.
Text messages from Colby Covington (@ColbyCovMMA) on the Robbie Lawler main event, Aug. 3. His manager Dan Lambert says Colby agreed to multiple dates against Woodley and Usman that ultimately never came together. pic.twitter.com/cGt9kGetu8
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) June 25, 2019
The bout has yet to be finalised but both fighters are said to be game to throw down. Covington has remarked that he is ready for the first title defence of his [stripped, interim] belt against 'the last real champion this division has had'.
Even if he wins, though, Ben Askren looms large.
Askren defeated Lawler on his UFC debut, earlier this year, and is facing the highly-rated Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 next month. Beating Masvidal in impressive fashion could yet propel 'Funky' ahead of Covington for that ticket to ride against Usman.
That fight would then be at UFC 244, along with a host of top names. Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to be on that MSG card too, and spoke earlier this year of trying to get a fight there against Georges St Pierre.