HISCOE: Colby Covington faces his toughest test this weekend and it’s not Robbie Lawler

By Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Columnist

Colby Covington's act

Colby Covington faces the biggest test of his career this Saturday in Newark. Yes, he’ll have Robbie Lawler standing across from him, and that’s enough for him to worry about, but the true test will have implications for Covington’s future positioning in UFC. Covington’s test this week is can he move the needle. When ratings come out for this weekend’s UFC on ESPN show, we’ll finally know if Covington’s act is connecting.

For all of the chatter and attention Covington has attained for himself, we still don’t know if he is a difference-maker for either pay-per-view buys or TV ratings. He just hasn’t been put in a position yet to draw. The closest he’s been to a drawing position was UFC 225, where he fought second from the top. The show did an estimated 250,000 buys, not a blow away number by any means. UFC 225 also had CM Punk so it would be difficult to attribute any of those buys to Covington.

If Covington can prove that he can bring in viewers on Saturday (and if he wins of course) he’ll be in a much better position to get that UFC welterweight title shot that seems to have eluded him the past couple of years. Even if he loses, proving that he can move TV ratings will give Covington more opportunities and, at worst, can put him in a Chael Sonnen like position where he can reliably used as a supporting act and plugged into big main events when the right feud presents itself.

This Saturday’s show from Newark takes place on ESPN, the fifth main card on the cable network since UFC jumped ship this year. It also takes place in the middle of the afternoon. This means that whatever the viewership number is, there won’t be a direct comparison to determine this show’s success. UFC ran afternoon shows on FS1 but ESPN viewership has been stronger in general. If it’s a weak number, the timeslot can be used as an excuse to give Covington another chance on top.

UFC on ESPN viewership has ranged from 828,000 to 1.463 million viewers, so anything above the 800,000 mark would have to be considered a home run and gives clout for Covington as a legitimate draw.

Colby Covington has been talking the talk for some time now. This Saturday, he’ll have the chance to put his money where his mouth is both in the cage and in the ratings.

More from Mike Hiscoe:

HISCOE: What can MMA learn from boxing’s tragic week?

HISCOE: Should we be taking it easy on Greg Hardy?


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