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Incite the Riot: Kamaru Usman versus Colby Covington

Cover photos courtesy of the UFC, Covington and Usman’s personal Instagram accounts.

The dominating value of America allows all ethnic groups to experience the adulation of and appropriation by American fans based on merit alone. This phenomenon is not indicative of a lack of prejudices, but the ability to experience acceptance in spite of it. Even at the height of Jim Crowe, black Olympians were celebrated because they represented the most important value of the American disposition, winning.

Max Schmeling and Joe Louis

The American dream is curious. It sensationalizes the acquisition of wealth in-spite of adversity. It would follow that a foreigner that emerged from poverty and started off not speaking English could be accepted by Americans after distinguishing themselves as a great athlete. Anderson Silva comes to mind in the world of mixed martial arts.

Quando olho esta foto, percebo o quanto Deus me fortalece sempre me dando luz na minha caminhada. Em uma longa viagem, lembranças fantásticas do tempo em que brincava nas ruas do bairro onde cresci em Curitiba. Tudo que passei, tudo que consegui construir com força de vontade, com determinação e muita honra. Tive o previlégio de colocar o brasão do meu time do coração, de uma certa forma, dar um título mundial pra ele e principalmente, pro meu povo. Só tenho a agradecer a todos vocês por tudo, digo de coração, amo vocês todos que sempre estão me dando forças. Beijo! Amo vocês de verdade, força e honra a todos, independente de time, cor, raça, religião e opção sexual, somos todos irmãos. Obrigado meu povo! Podem ter certeza que ainda não acabou. Meu amor e minha paixão pela luta estão aqui, firmes e fortes. A luta continua, vou parar quando DEUS achar que não dá mais. Então quem é meu fã, pode ter certeza, que logo estou de volta, pra alegria dos que torcem por mim e pra tristeza dos que não kkkkkk beijo . When I look at this photo, I realize how much God strengthens me by always giving me light in my walk. On a long trip, fantastic memories of the time I played in the streets of the neighborhood where I grew up in Curitiba. Everything I've been through, everything I've built with willpower, determination and great honor. I had the privilege of putting the coat of my heart team, in a way, to give a world title to him and especially to my people. I just have to thank you all for everything, I say from my heart, I love you all who are always giving me strength. Kiss! I really love you, strength and honor to all, regardless of team, color, race, religion and sexual choice, we are all brothers. Thank you, my people! You can be sure it's not over yet. My love and my passion for the fight are here, firm and strong. The fight continues, I will stop when GOD thinks I can not do it anymore. So who is my fan, can be sure, that soon I'm back, to the joy of those who cheer for me and to the sadness of those who don’t kkkkkk kiss

A post shared by Anderson "The Spider" Silva (@spiderandersonsilva) on Jan 7, 2018 at 6:06am PST

Silva flew under the radar for most of his career and reign as champion. He starts training in America, gets some iconic wins, learns a bit of English and suddenly American children are idolizing him. I used to think, “whoa, Silva is a wizard, his career is going to be a fairytale and he’ll retire undefeated in the promotion.” Americans see the best as ourselves, and we will superimpose our image over the top athlete as our idol(s) even at the expense of our own athletes. This is great for foreign talents looking to build fortune from American dollars. A young girl/ boy from any slum on earth can and will become accepted by U.S. fans and profit handsomely from the market if the sport generates enough income for its competitors. American fighters used to be overwhelming adored when promoters could sell the images of Ali vs the Russians, Louis vs the Germans, or another vs America’s latest ethnic or international adversary. Today this privilege is gone. A fighter with the support of the Midwest, east coast etc. does not get the same extra promotion as one with the support of their separate nation behind them.

It’s not that Americans cannot be superstars, but the U.S. market allows foreign athletes to seize American support even at an American fighter’s expense.

On the horizon is a bout between Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman. Each at first glance seems as American as the other, but that’s irrelevant. Here is an opportunity to force fans to get emotionally invested in a divisive American native for better or worse.

This is the perfect opportunity to make us choose between Colby and Kamaru. You have the villainous ethnic majority challenging for the title of “best in the world”. His foundation is the western martial art of wrestling as popularized by the Greeks. His persona is obnoxious, entitled and even better, he aggressively shows supports for what can be described as the wildly unpopular POTUS. The merchandise of Trump alone is considered a symbol of hate to at minimum half of the U.S… and that’s perfect.

A post shared by colbycovington (@colbycovmma) on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:09pm PDT

In the champion we have another western martial artist, who unlike Colby is a west African immigrant who openly speaks his native tongue. The two could not clash more and Kamaru hates the loud, pestering and frantic Colby. Kamaru is the calm, soft spoken foreigner who’s personally is surely adored by some. Despite this disposition, his status as an immigrant can be used to highlight his singularity as the final obstacle in the American’s mission.

This juxtaposition is perfect. The white American soldier has climbed to the mountaintop to free the American fans from the yoke of the Nigerian king. The American savior has made the ascension, dragging the American fans with him so that they can have a representative again, so that they can feel great again, so that they may again look down from the top of the mountain.

A post shared by Esther Lin (@allelbows) on Feb 28, 2019 at 10:46pm PST

MMA Fighting/Esther Lin

For far too long promotions have led with marketing that is palatable: nothing too risqué. But let’s be honest, this is a product where people go unconscious and the production team zooms in on their face. Anyone who can stomach that can stomach incendiary advertising. It’s time to get American fighters paid and the best way to do that is by exciting prejudice.

Careful; the prejudice is ethnically charged but does not require hate. What you are preying on are international rivalries and the favor with which ethnic groups see themselves. In the U.S. this is tricky because we are the least monochromatic. Like Brazil there is a significant number of descendants from… involuntary emigration. There are also many fighters who are aware of and engaged in their motherland’s heritage, so it’s best to garner support of Americans via nationalism. Where other nations’ people are concerned, it’s in the market’s best interest to appeal to their national pride.

A post shared by KAMARU USMAN (@usman84kg) on Aug 19, 2019 at 5:06am PDT

See the Mexico-Puerto Rico boxing rivalry. The build-up to those bouts is not intense simply because both nations’ fighters are elite. This ain’t basketball, it’s prize fighting. Fighters are the best any ethnic group has to offer out of a pool of the ‘bottom of the barrel’ of their populations. Moral of the story, racial tension is great for business.

All of the questions of who is better, who is tougher, who wants it more will be answered in a one on one competition where both competitors represent an entire nation on their backs. This is demonstrated in fighters like Aldo being nicknamed Jr. and Conor more ostentatiously being announced as “The Pride of Ireland”. Aldo was for a long time, and Conor certainly is whether the Irish pretend he isn’t the source of their international relevance or not.

For fans and fighters there is thrill and there is agony. For fight promotions there is only thrill. This is fighting. Hate sells. Commissions fine and promotions discipline fighters for brawls but brawls sell, especially when it’s in every promo leading up to the match. These emotions are the roots of a giving tree, and the dollars are leaves. Everyone will not make millions, but a champion of the richest country on the planet, who can evoke emotion from the public should have no trouble clearing that threshold with just a few title fights and the right amount of push.

The POTUS as a figure is divisive as well as Colby’s developing brand. Even if Colby isn’t that well known yet, his alignment with this administration gives him a head start on eliciting emotional responses. People are already upset and Colby is pouring gasoline on the flames. All Dana has to do is throw a little more wood into the fire.

A post shared by colbycovington (@colbycovmma) on Aug 20, 2019 at 10:14am PDT

Do not script or guide the storylines, just highlight the existing friction. Encourage Kamaru to speak his native language more in press environments. Show that speech in promo videos.

Right next to Kamaru spouting a threatening, foreign, unwelcomed language into the camera at the silent majority, show Colby wearing the MAGA hat. Enable the prejudice. Show the pictures of Colby standing next to Jr. and Eric and then switch to glimpses of Kamaru in his face paint holding his flag up in the air. Galvanize the American fans, the biggest market, the way boxing promoters did in our history. Grab a hold of those nasty feelings and convert prejudice and social awareness into dollars for American fighters.

A post shared by KAMARU USMAN (@usman84kg) on Mar 9, 2019 at 3:55pm PST

When the people’s emotions run high enough, they do the fight week promotion for you. The more emotional the better, you have nothing to lose. What you do at a pivotal point like this is make sure that both fighters’ stock can spike with a win. The UFC could go the Joe Louis route with Kamaru as the savior who grips the black and African market to the point where they accept MMA as a part of their culture. And they can sell him as a foreign threat at the same time. They not only can, they should. People will make the bout about more than just fighting. It could elevate the event to a spectacle of political morality. Make Kamaru’s potential victory bigger than sports. Make Colby’s potential victory a heartbreaking experience that will evoke hopelessness and anxiety in fans, and they will scramble for the next challenger to save them from the atrocity. Make each man a political symbol, setting up Kamaru to be the next “credit to his race” with a victory. The next Joe Louis.■

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