EXCLUSIVE: Leon Edwards claims he’s ‘ready to go’ against Kamaru Usman for his maiden UFC title defence next year and wants to do it at Villa Park… as ‘Rocky’ insists trilogy bout will ‘be an EASIER fight’ than five-round war in August
- Leon Edwards says he’s ‘ready’ to defend his UFC welterweight title next year
- A trilogy fight between himself and Kamaru Usman is tipped for March 2023
- Edwards has welcomed a third fight between them and says he’s ‘ready to go’
- The English welterweight predicts it’ll be ‘an easier fight’ than their August bout
Leon Edwards is loving life as a UFC champion. The dust has finally settled from his victory over Kamaru Usman and now he’s ‘ready’ to run it back for his maiden title defence.
In August the Birmingham fighter faced off with Usman for the second time, having been defeated in their 2015 encounter, and dealt the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ his first ever loss in the UFC.
With one minute remaining in their five-round bout, Edwards delivered a brutal head-kick to his opponent and became just the second British UFC champion since the promotion began in 1993.
Leon Edwards has welcomed the prospect of headlining a UFC card in England next year
Edwards says he’s ‘ready to go’ against Kamaru Usman for his maiden UFC title belt defence
Edwards dealt Usman (pictured) his first ever loss in the UFC during their August encounter
He must now make his maiden title defence and UFC boss Dana White has tipped the Englishman to have a trilogy fight with Usman in the UK next year – which the 31-year-old has welcomed the prospect of.
When asked if he was ready for a third fight, Edwards told Sportsmail: ‘Yeah for sure, 100 per cent. Like I said, get it back home to the UK. March or April, whenever it is. I’m ready to go now.
‘I think it’ll be the same as last time – I’m going in there for the finish! That is my main focus. I’m going there to let everyone know that I am the champ and that it wasn’t no luck. Next time, it’ll be an easier fight. I’m excited.’
There were claims that Edwards was fortunate to emerge the victor against Usman, who was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards until the final minute of the bout.
But a decisive moment from Edwards meant the scorecards weren’t needed and now all eyes are on the champion’s first title defence, with Dana White talking up the potential for Edwards to headline a card in London next year.
The Birmingham fighter delivered a brutal head-kick with just a minute remaining in the bout
Being the main event for any UFC event, let alone one in the UK, is a prestigious moment for any British fighter in their career and it was an opportunity that was taken away from Edwards two years ago.
He was scheduled to headline a Fight Night event in the O2 Arena against Tyron Woodley in 2020 but, due to the COVID pandemic, the event was scrapped.
Edwards remains optimistic over the prospect of headlining a card in England and suggested ‘everything happens for a reason’ when reflecting on the cancelled bout with Woodley.
On headlining a UK event, he said: ‘It would mean the world to me. I was meant to headline before but it got cancelled because of COVID.
‘But now, doing a complete 360, I’ve come back with the belt and we’re talking about stadium shows. So, I feel like everything happens for a reason.
The 31-year-old says he wants to bring a UFC card to Villa Park at the start of next year
‘Villa Park is my number one choice obviously! But if not, Cardiff would be good. That’s the only place with a roof. That’s the only place you can fully shut the roof in and fill out the whole 60,000 people.
‘I believe the time is now to make it happen. The UFC has been talking for a while about having a big stadium show. And this is the time to make it happen in the UK.’
Edwards was talking with Sportsmail last week after being honoured by Birmingham’s Lord Mayor for his achievements within the sport.
He said: ‘It was good. A surreal moment to be invited here but it shows that my hard work is paying off. Obviously I can use this now to inspire the youth.’
Leon is the Birmingham ambassador for youth charity Onside. It’s an organisation that champions youth work and provides opportunities for young people. To find out more visit: https://www.onsideyouthzones.org/
Edwards stand with Birmingham’s Lord Mayor after being honoured in the city centre
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