Leon Edwards is ready to put on a show when he heads home to defend his UFC welterweight title for the first time.
At UFC 278, ‘Rocky’ scored what many believe is the greatest knockout of all time, capturing former titleholder Kamaru Usman with a brutal head kick less than a minute away from a certain defeat. Holder of the 170-pound crown, Leon Edwards is returning to the UK to defend his title against the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ in a highly anticipated trilogy bout at UFC 286 on Saturday.
Ahead of their clash at the O2 Arena in London, Edwards sat down with Nik Hobbs of SkySports to share his thoughts on his UFC 278 performance and how he sees things playing out during their third dance inside the Octagon this weekend.
“I’ve watched the tapes. We’ve adjusted our mistakes and came up with the right game plan to conquer it and I feel comfortable in myself,” Edwards said. “Comfortable in what the outcome is going to be. I’m truly prepared and ready to go against him. I’ve fought him twice now. I know how he fights and he’s not getting any younger. He’s injured. Injury prone and been in tough fights. I’m a young 31-year-old man now going into my prime. I’m feeling good so let’s see. I am ready physically, mentally, and emotionally.
“I am ready and I cannot wait. This is what I’ve worked for for a long time and like I said, I cannot see him coming to the UK and taking the belt from me. I’ve never lost in the UK. I enjoy fighting back at home. I enjoy being around my family and fighting around my family and now it’s just icing on the cake to be able to defend my belt.”
Leon Edwards ‘100%’ Wants Jorge Masvidal Next
Should he get past Kamaru Usman at UFC 286, ‘Rocky’ has one man on his mind for his second UFC title defense.
“Masvidal for sure,” Edwards said without hesitation when asked who he would like to fight next. “100%.”
Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal appeared to be on a collision course following a March 2019 backstage incident between the two. Following his second-round knockout of Darren Till at UFC on EPSN+ 5, ‘Gamebred’ was in the middle of a post-fight interview with Laura Sanko when Edwards casually walked by and delivered some trash talk. Masvidal responded saying, “Come over here, say that to my face,” before casually walking away from Sanko to confront ‘Rocky’ face-to-face.
That’s when Masvidal delivered what he later dubbed a three-piece and a soda. The scuffle was quickly broken up, but not before some strikes landed.
Edwards and Masvidal were finally set to scrap in December 2021, but an injury forced ‘Gamebred’ to withdraw from the contest. Since then, their career paths went in different directions with Edwards capturing the UFC welterweight title while Masvidal has lost three straight. Masvidal will return to the Octagon at UFC 287 in April for a high-stakes matchup with Gilbert Burns. If ‘Gamebred’ manages to score a win over No. 5 ranked Burns, it would likely put him in prime position for another UFC title opportunity, finally giving fans the long-awaited showdown teased backstage four years ago.