Nate Diaz is the perfect fight at the perfect time for Leon Edwards… the UFC 262 showdown can be a springboard to a title shot and finally earn the Brit the credit he deserves
- Leon Edwards has been patient for so long and denied the massive opportunities
- He accepted a fight with fearsome newcomer Khamzat Chimaev to show intent
- Edwards even accepted a bout with Belal Muhammad ranked well below him
- Now he can finally reap the rewards with a high profile Nate Diaz showdown
- Diaz remains one of the sport’s biggest names and is a launchpad for Edwards
In February, Nate Diaz pretended not to know who Leon Edwards is.
It is a tactic that has been used before by Colby Covington. Nobody wanted to fight the British welterweight and simply denying his existence has been used as an excuse to duck him.
For so long, Edwards has had to bide his time and wait for the opportunity he unquestionably deserves.
Leon Edwards deserves some good fortune and the Nate Diaz fight is perfect for him
Diaz (centre) still remains one of the most entertaining and popular characters in the UFC
‘And who the f*** is this’, wrote Diaz after ‘Rocky’ had called him out.
The Birmingham fighter had said: ‘Nate just dribbled for an hour about wanting to fight at 170 against winners… let’s see it then Nate Diaz.
‘[I’m on an] eight-fight win streak and No 3 in the world. Let’s go if you still think you’re a real one.’
Diaz has been notoriously picky with his opponents over the last few years since elevating his profile to another level with the win over Conor McGregor.
It seemed incredibly unlikely – and ill advised – for him to face Edwards but here we are, somehow the fight is on.
No contest vs Belal Muhammad
Unanimous decision vs Rafael dos Anjos
Split decision vs Gunnar Nelson
Unanimous decision vs Donald Cerrone
TKO win vs Peter Sobotta
Unanimous decision vs Bryan Barberena
Unanimous decision vs Vicente Luque
Submission win vs Albert Tumenov
Unanimous decision vs Dominic Waters
It will be a five-round co-main event at UFC 262 and many will view it as a more tantalising prospect than the showpiece fight between Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira on May 15.
Diaz deserves immense credit for taking this fight. Of course he knew who Edwards is but the turnaround from denying his existence to suddenly signing to fight has raised eyebrows.
Edwards remains one of the most underrated talents in the UFC despite riding an eight-fight winning streak and slotting in at No 3 in the rankings.
His profile, particularly in the USA, is not particularly big. Perhaps the prospect of a title shot with a win was enough to persuade Diaz. Maybe he’s just bored of being on the sidelines.
He is a massive underdog with the bookmakers at +285 and on paper this is a terrible match-up.
Conversely, this is exactly the kind of fight Edwards will have dreamed about for so long.
Last year, he was offered a title shot on relatively short notice and opted against it, putting him in Dana White and the UFC’s bad books.
Fast forward two months and Edwards had been removed from the ranking altogether.
The message was clear, we don’t need you in our top 10 as much as you need us.
Diaz knows that a victory would put him in line for a title shot but he comes in as an underdog
Edwards reacted. He called out another man nobody wanted to fight.
Khamzat Chimaev had been laughably dominant on Fight Island, walloping three opponents in rapid succession to make a name for himself. He was calling out every big name under the sun and Edwards took him up on it.
But dreadful luck – a common theme with the 29-year-old – struck again as he contracted Covid and had to postpone.
Then Chimaev caught the virus himself and has been so badly affected by it that the fight was pulled for a third time.
Edwards was sick of waiting for a high-ranked opponent to agree to take him on so accepted a late-notice replacement with Belal Muhammad stepping in.
Muhammad is ranked No 13 and a defeat would have sent Edwards tumbling back down the pecking order. More frustration followed.
After an impressive first round, Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye and the doctor’s called a stop to it.
Edwards fought to a frustrating no contest with Belal Muhammad (right) due to an eye poke
Diaz has opened as a significant underdog with the bookmakers for UFC 262’s co-main event
It was hard not to feel deep sympathy not only with Muhammad but also with Edwards. Where would he go from here?
Jorge Masvidal is fighting Kamaru Usman again for the title later this month at UFC 261, Covington point blank refuses to engage with Edwards, Stephen Thompson is coming back from injury… the outlook was bleak.
But Diaz’s U-turn is an incredible turn of events and immediately has fans excited.
The Stockton fighter has not stepped into the cage since losing the BMF title by doctor’s stoppage in 2019.
He’s always game, always dangerous but seems tailor made for Edwards who will think Christmas has come early.
The Brit is improving his salesmanship but has been unable to share an event with a big name at the top before and it will make the world of difference.
Edwards (left) is worthy of a title shot and a win over Diaz is just the launchpad he needs
The exposure a fight with Diaz brings is unlike anything he’ll have enjoyed before and this fight can be the launchpad from which Edwards jumps to a title fight.
His claim will be undeniable with a win. If Usman beats Masvidal, the only fight that makes sense is a rematch with ‘Rocky’.
And if Masvidal upsets the champion, he has plenty of history with Edwards too, more than enough for a narrative the UFC can spin.
For so long, the deck seems to have been stacked against one of the most exciting British talents in MMA. Finally, it seems as though the cards are falling his way.
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