After a difficult past two years, welterweight contender Leon Edwards is finally getting his title fight opportunity. Fighting through the COVID-19 pandemic, injuries, and the lack of getting fights made, Edwards has managed to fight just twice since 2020 and caught a bad break in his return to action when he suffered a no-contest against Belal Muhammad due to accidental eye pokes, but came up victorious in his biggest opportunity to date.
At UFC 263 last June, Edwards got his marquee matchup when he faced Nate Diaz in a non-title five-round fight, and he was able to weather a late flurry from Diaz and come away with the unanimous decision victory. The victory for Edwards was his 9th consecutive win in 10 fights, including the one no-contest against Muhammad.
Most recently, Leon Edwards was scheduled to face bitter rival Jorge Masvidal in December but the fight was pulled due to an injury suffered by Masvidal. With Masvidal now set to face Colby Covington in March, Edwards found himself with the perfect moment to get his long-awaited title fight against Kamaru Usman. That moment will be coming his way according to UFC President Dana White, who acknowledged the last two years have been tough for the top welterweight contender.
Speaking to TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, White confirmed that Edwards is next in line and after Usman has run through all other top contenders, it’s time for “Rocky” to get his title fight.
When I asked if Leon Edwards is next in line to fight for the welterweight championship, Dana White's reply was "100%"
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) January 13, 2022
“100 percent. That kid’s had a tough run. He deserves it. If you look at it, Colby lost to [Usman] twice, Gilbert lost, Leon’s next. He’s number three.”
Openly granting him the title fight was not the only credit that White gave Edwards. After losing his fight against former champion Tyron Woodley due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Edwards was scheduled three times against Khamzat Chimaev although White said no one wanted to fight the surging newcomer.
“We were in a matchmaking meeting on Tuesday and I’m always like, ‘Nobody wants to fight him [Chimaev], nobody wants to fight him. Leon Edwards signed the bout agreement to fight him and I think he was ranked number three at the time. So I wanted to make that clear, publicly. He absoulteuly wanted to fight him, signed the bout agreement and then Khamzat got COVID and that was the end of that.”
Dana White would go on to say that he wanted to acknowledge the willingness of Leon Edwards to face Chimaev and give him the credit he deserves.
“I’m bringing it up for a reason because I said that and never gave that kid the credit he deserve He said yes to it, signed the bout agreement, and was ready to roll.”
Damon Martin of MMA Fighting noted that a recent Instagram Live session by champion Kamaru Usman revealed he’s still healing from a hand injury and speculated that a title fight between Usman and Leon Edwards could come late this summer.
During an IG Live session a couple of days ago, UFC champ Kamaru Usman said he was still dealing with his hand injury and hasn't returned to training yet.
I'd wager Usman vs. Edwards 2 (if it happens) would probably end up as a summertime fight. https://t.co/tKzsQcd45V
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) January 13, 2022
The last time Leon Edwards suffered a loss was back in 2015 when he dropped a unanimous decision to Kamaru Usman, which was Usman’s first fight in the promotion after winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 21. Seven years later after their first meeting, Edwards and Usman will meet again, this time with the welterweight title on the line.
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews, BJPenn.com, and TheScrap.Co while also hosting his “On The Mic” podcast and works as an Associate Producer on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation channel.
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