Update (3/24): Jorge Masvidal was arrested Wednesday night and charged with aggravated battery and criminal mischief, both felonies, for (allegedly) slugging Colby Covington twice in the face. If this truly is a pro wrestling-style work, as we hypothesize below, the level of commitment is impressive.
Here is some footage of a handcuffed Masvidal skipping into jail:
We’ve seen this storyline play out before. Instead of in the octagon, it’s been confined to the world of professional wrestling, when the entanglements of the squared circle aren’t enough to settle scores between two rivals. The feud between two of the UFC’s best welterweights reportedly spilled over into Miami’s streets late Monday evening when Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington had an alleged fight that included an unidentified friend of Covington’s.
The incident has all the ingredients of a staged parking lot brawl. We had preceding jabs on social media, a previous match, with Covington handing Masvidal his third straight loss earlier this month at UFC 272 via unanimous decision, and the duo residing in the same town. All that was missing was the carefully crafted camera angles to best show the “sneak” attack and convey the assailant in an evil light.
Oddly, the easy storyline has been flipped in this scenario. Masvidal, better fit to play a babyface, the wrestling term for a character the audience cheers, was the alleged instigator and attacker. Covington has fed into a heel persona, the canon villain, throughout his UFC career. Both fighters on-camera personalities would make for great pro wrestling characters. Masvidal even joined American Top Team in All Elite Wrestling last year, delivering a running knee strike to Chris Jericho, similar to his five-second knockout of Ben Askren in July 2019. Also involved in the segment were UFC alumni Andrei Arlovski, Junior Dos Santos and Paige VanZant, the latter of whom signed an AEW contract earlier this month and has begun training under former WWE star Gangrel.
Covington has played up his pro-MAGA persona, a character also adopted in wrestling over the last several years, since an October 2017 win over Brazilian fighter Damien Maia in Sao Paulo. He called the country “a dump” and Brazilians “a bunch of filthy animals.” He’s consistently pandered to former President Donald Trump’s base since, bringing the UFC Welterweight Championship to the White House in 2018. Similar attacks have been made against Kamaru Usman, Tyron Woodley and LeBron James. And Covington himself has expressed an interest in pro wrestling, telling Sports Illustrated earlier this month that he’d “love to cross over” to a WWE career when his MMA days are over.
Masvidal has also created chaos outside the UFC’s domain before, getting into a heated spat with Usman himself at the Super Bowl’s radio row in 2020. When appearing for AEW in the clip above, he’s wearing Dolce & Gabbana, far from traditional attire. After knocking out Askren, he didn’t go to his corner and celebrate. He decided to get on the ground next to the prone Askren and continue to talk shit.
The out-of-ring altercation allegedly stems from this Covington interview, where he states about Masvidal: “If you didn’t have these actions, I wouldn’t be able to have anything to talk about. If he wasn’t a deadbeat dad, he doesn’t even talk to his kids. He’s tried to erase the mother of his children and his wife, still legally on paper, Marisa Masvidal, from the history of the internet.” UFC President Dana White has yet to comment on the incident or the verbal low blows between two of his most popular fighters. Masvidal has spoken on social media, tweeting about it on Tuesday morning.
According to a Miami Beach police report, Masvidal is suspected of felony battery. The third person involved in the altercation lost teeth, according to a Miami Beach police report. No charges have been officially filed from the incident yet, while TMZ has obtained video from the alleged dust-up. Covington is seen pondering how Masvidal knew where he was eating dinner after loads of trash talking between the two.
There have been dozens of pro wrestling storylines where attacks outside arenas have been integral to the tale. Stone Cold Steve Austin tussled with Booker T in a grocery store and Austin also fought Vince McMahon in a hospital room. John Cena once threw Edge into the Long Island Sound. How about Triple H’s home invasion of Randy Orton?
The disparity between real and fake in mixed martial arts has never been more blurred. Ronda Rousey, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar, Dan Severn, Matt Riddle, Ken Shamrock and Shayna Baszler have all worn trunks in both rings. And the perfect result out of the Masvidal/Covington fight outside of Miami Beach restaurant Papi Steak is to eventually settle their differences at a UFC pay-per-view down the line. It’s brilliant booking. White knows he must capitalize on this, just like it would be scripted in pro wrestling.
Any other conclusion doesn’t make sense and both fighters know how to talk people into buying tickets and pay-per-views. A little trouble with the law for either man doesn’t change the huge payday both would receive for a rematch, regardless of result. Remember the international tour Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather put together, only to kiss and make up right after the boxing match ended, presenting the whole thing as a public-relations ruse just to make more coin? Covington and Masvidal might legitimately hate each other but they’re natural showmen who know to stay relevant. Playing on the tropes of pro wrestling will continue to happen if it benefits their bank accounts.