Colby Covington is shadow boxing, warming up for a private striking workout. He's with a coach, inside a room tucked next to an acai bowls cafe. Rock music is playing on Covington's smartphone, and he's wearing a shirt that reads "Stomp my flag, I'll stomp your ass."
It's 1:06 p.m. on a Monday in mid-November at the famed American Top Team training center. A few feet away, on the other side of a closed door, the other pro fighters at the gym -- including ESPN's No. 2 bantamweight, Marlon Moraes, No. 5 flyweight Jussier Formiga and PFL standout Kayla Harrison -- are wrapping up a group class. Covington can't see his teammates when they gather in the center of the mat or hear them when they all yell "ATT!" in unison to end the session. That's partly by design, as some fighters prefer private sessions before a big fight. But for Covington, the isolation is deeper.
"I'm doing stuff behind closed doors now," Covington says during lunch, a month before his first unified title shot. "I don't want people to see my training. That's a big concern of mine. I don't want people to see the game plan I'm working and how much I've improved and the skills I'm developing every single day. You'll see that on fight night when I step into the Octagon."
Aside from being one of the best fighters in the world, Covington is known for being one of the UFC's greatest villains. He is skilled at incendiary -- and sometimes crude -- trash talk.
And it's not just with opponents. Over the last few months, Covington's divisiveness has shaken the walls of American Top Team. He has publicly feuded with several teammates, including former friend -- and perhaps the hottest act in the UFC -- Jorge Masvidal. The Covington-Masvidal beef has defined the growing tension within the gym and put a spotlight on ATT that will grow more intense should the teammates eventually become opponents.