‘It’s coming home,’ Leon Edwards stoked first title defense is in U.K.
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Leon Edwards is finally fighting again on home soil, and this time he does it as UFC champion.
The English fighter is set to make his first title defense this Saturday in the main event of UFC 286 at The O2 Arena in London. Edwards (20-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) takes on Kamaru Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) in a trilogy bout and an immediate championship rematch, as the two last competed against each other in August at UFC 278 with Edwards delivering an upset head-kick KO.
This is a special moment in Edwards’ career, to say the least.
“London, what’s up! Let’s go!,” Edwards yelled on the microphone, as he rallied up the crowd present at Thursday’s UFC 286 pre-fight press conference. “I’m honored to be here. It’s been a long time coming. I worked hard to get here and Saturday night, I’m going to make them proud, for sure.”
Edwards had to go unbeaten for 10 fights in order to get his shot at Usman back in August. It’s been a long road for him.
However, “Rocky” was supposed to have a coming out party back in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans, perhaps making his journey to the title even longer. Edwards was expected to fight former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in the main event of a Fight Night in London.
Edwards is grateful to return to his home country under these vastly different conditions.
“It’s coming home, it’s coming home,” Edwards said. “It’s going to mean the world. Like you said, it’s been a long time. This is my fourth time I think in front of The O2. I was meant to headline here against Tyron Woodley, and it got pushed back because of COVID.
“Now here we are, March 18 I come back as champion. And still. It’s going to be an amazing experience, it means the world to me. The road I traveled to get here, it was hard, it was tough. No one gave me a chance, everyone counted me out. I built character, and it’s going to be good.”
Although champion, there’s no denying Edwards was en route to losing a clear decision in his second fight against Usman. The head-kick KO saved his title hopes late in the fifth round. Edwards assures that it was just a bad night at the office that night at UFC 278 and also that the altitude in Denver played a factor in the bout.
He believes that Saturday night he’ll prove he’s a technically superior fighter to Usman.
“Saturday night I’m going out there to show off, show out,” Edwards said. “I truly believe that this is my time and Saturday night you will feel that. My last fight, even though altitude played a big part of it, I know he’s improved, I’m not deluded. I truly believe I am better. I just can’t see him coming to the U.K. and taking that belt back home. So let’s go! Let’s go!”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.
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