Leon Edwards set on Kamaru Usman or Jorge Masvidal
British welterweight star Leon Edwards announced himself as a bona-fide contender for the UFC’s 170-pound title in San Antonio last weekend with a dominant decision victory over Rafael dos Anjos. And Edwards said it was a sweet moment as the MMA world collectively seemed to wake up to his fighting abilities.
“I’m very happy,” Edwards told MMA Junkie during a phone interview on Friday. “It felt great to go out there and outclass a former world champion in RDA in the way I did it. I’m on an eight-fight win streak now, second-most to the current champion, so it feels good.
“Now they’re seeing my work and seeing how good I am. I’m proving to the world that I am one of the best fighters, especially coming out of the U.K.”
That last point is a relevant one for Edwards (18-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC), who is taking great pride in the fact that he is a truly home-grown British mixed martial artist, having taken all of his training in his hometown of Birmingham, England. When he started his career, he was told he had to head overseas if he wanted to become the best. But now the 27-year-old is proving otherwise, and he’s proud to set the example for the next generation of fighters.
“It’s amazing,” Edwards said. “It’s one of my aims to do it from the UK and prove to the kids that are coming up behind me that you can also be the best in the world coming up through the UK. I’ve grown up being told we had to go to America, Brazil, wherever in order to get the training because we can’t wrestle, we can’t grapple, blah, blah, blah.
“But we’ve got great talent here in the UK. There are great fighters and great coaching staff here. So it feels amazing to do it all from my hometown, coming from Birmingham and seeing all the kids following my footsteps into MMA. It’s amazing to see.”
Edwards’ impeccable form has propelled him to within arms reach of a shot at the UFC welterweight title. The man holding the belt, Kamaru Usman, is the last man to defeat him some four-and-a-half years ago, while his other likely opponent is the man who infamously skirmished with him backstage after his win over Gunnar Nelson at UFC on ESPN+ 5 in London earlier this year, Jorge Masvidal.
Those two options – a title fight with Usman or a title eliminator with the man he now calls “The Weasel” – don’t just represent the common-sense options for Edwards. He believes they are the only two viable matchups for his next outing, and he’d be more than happy to entertain either, though he said he hasn’t had a steer from the UFC brass regarding which bout is more likely.
“For me, the two fights to make are Usman and ‘The Weasel.’ There’s no other fights for me, really,” Edwards said.
“I haven’t heard much from the UFC since Saturday,” he admitted. “I know Dana came out and said he liked the me and Jorge Masvidal fight. That’s all I’ve heard. I think they’ll try to push for that fight, and hopefully we’ll get that done.”
But, while Edwards would love to settle the score with Masvidal, he said his first choice would always be to fight for the title.
“I’m in the game to be a world champion, so if they offer me Usman first, I’d 100 percent take Usman,” Edwards said. “That would be a good fight, to get the win back against Usman, who’s the last guy to beat me. I’m here to be a world champion, so if I could choose my path, I’d take Usman first, then face Masvidal.”
One man Edwards is no longer interested in fighting is fellow countryman Darren Till. While the Liverpudlian was getting a title push, Edwards watched closely and repeatedly called for a fight with his compatriot. But, as he explained, there was never a personal edge to the callout.
“I’m not really looking at Darren Till any more,” Edwards said. “It was never personal with me and him. I just wanted to prove I was the best in the U.K., and that was it.
“I think he’s moving up to 185, which I think is the best move for him. And now (that) he’s moving up, we can probably be friends!”
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