Mixed Martial Arts-Edwards targets UFC belt as British MMA booms

STOCKHOLM: After a long, hard road to the top, Leon Edwards is poised to beat Kamaru Usman to win the UFC Welterweight Championship next Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, bringing a big hit to the burgeoning British MMA scene gives boost.

With Liverpool-born fighters Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett and Molly McCann electrifying crowds at a recent sell-out UFC event in London, British MMA is at the peak of a wave and Edwards can look back with a win at UFC278.

“I’m excited, man, it’s taken a long time, it’s been a long, long road, so now is the time and I’m excited,” Edwards told Reuters in a Zoom interview from Salt Lake City while referring to Usman prepared against whom he lost by decision in 2015.

“We’ve both improved (since) and I can see it going in a lot of different directions when I picture it. I can see myself trying to push a wrestling based fight back like the first fight,” explained Edwards.

“I can see wrestling with him and then turn it into a flash fight, I can see choke him, I can see I get a decision. I envisioned him on the scorecards and me coming back and winning – I envisioned it in many different ways.”

With nine wins and one no-contest in his last 10 fights, Edwards is full of confidence ahead of his first UFC title win.

“This is my fourth or fifth main event for the UFC, so like the main events now, this feels like another fight for me,” he said.

Edwards attributes Britain’s cage fighting boom to the older generation throwing off their gloves and moving into coaching.


“We’re going to be just as good in a training camp as we are in America or anywhere else, I think that’s why it’s so good. There are great fighters coming out of Britain and that’s one of the main reasons,” said Edwards.

Born in Jamaica but raised in Birmingham, England, the 30-year-old is something of a poster child for the redemptive power of martial arts.

His father was shot dead in a London nightclub when Edwards was 13 and he spent four years in gangs and crime before breaking free through MMA.

“It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you stop. Don’t let the world around you make you who you are and cloud your vision,” he says when asked what advice he would give to young people.

“When I was young, all I could see was running around with my friends and stuff like that, but find what you love to do…dedicate yourself to it and it will pay off.”

Edwards is aiming to become only the second British champion in the UFC’s 29-year history, joining Michael Bisping, who scored a shock victory over Luke Rockhold to snatch the middleweight belt in 2016.

For Edwards, taking the title to Nigerian Usman would be the pinnacle of his career.

“That would be incredible… To go out there and prove that I’m the best… that’s just the icing on the cake,” he said.