UFC’s ‘unluckiest fighter’ Leon Edwards ready to end his long wait for a shot at the sport’s top stars as he prepares for Fight Night bout… with Brit’s career hampered by Covid cancellations, positive tests and last-minute travel restrictions
- British UFC welterweight Leon Edwards’ wait to return to the octagon is over
- Edwards will face Belal Muhammad in Las Vegas and earn a title shot with a win
- It has been 18 months since the ‘unluckiest fighter’ last entered the octagon
British UFC welterweight Leon Edwards’ long-wait to return to the octagon is finally over and his coach has warned that ‘everything’ is on the line.
Ahead of Saturday night’s UFC Main Event between Edwards and Belal Muhammad, president Dana White has issued that the Brit could earn himself a title shot with victory in Las Vegas. Edwards has won eight consecutive bouts to elevate his MMA record to 18 wins and three losses.
The 29-year-old fighter is a heavy favourite this weekend, sitting third in the UFC welterweight rankings, ten places above his opponent.
British UFC welterweight Leon Edwards’ long-wait to return to the octagon is finally over
The 29-year-old Brit will face Belal Muhammad as the Main Event at UFC fight night
Edwards’ coach Dave Lovell explained that this fight is a potential ‘no-win situation’ given the gulf in ability between the two.
‘When Leon does beat him, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, what did you expect?” Lovell said.
‘We would have preferred someone in the top five, but nobody wanted to fight him. So, fair play to Belal for stepping up and accepting the fight.’
Edwards’ last victory came against Rafael dos Anjos, the UFC’s No 4 ranked welterweight at the time, back in July 2019.
The Birmingham born MMA star had been linked with some huge fights in the division against a former champion, a potential title shot or other high-ranked fighters, but none came to happen.
Edwards’ coach Dave Lovell explained that the Muhammad fight is a potential ‘no-win situation’
His manager Tim Simpson told ESPN: ‘It will be 20 months this weekend since his last fight, and he hasn’t suffered a major injury.
‘Usually when people are out that long, it’s an injury. It would be a shame if, after all this, this is the fight we end up with and he lost.’
After his victory against dos Anjos, Edwards called out the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley, but none of them showed much interest.
Eventually, Woodley accepted Edwards’ challenge and they were booked as the Main Event at a UFC event in London on 21 March 2020. However, just five days before, the fight was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Birmingham-born fighter has dealt with covid complications and restrictions recently
He vented his frustration at the time, saying: ‘I’ve been dreaming about headlining a UFC event in my home country since I started MMA.
‘To get the opportunity to headline London and have it taken away from me, I was devastated.’
In June later that year, as the UK began to lift their lockdown restrictions, the UFC offered Edwards a title fight against Karamu Usman on July 11 in Abu Dhabi.
However, Edwards never accepted the fight due to the fact he had not been able to get as much preparation done in the gym as other U.S based fighters.
Edwards’ last fight vs Rafael dos Anjos, the UFC’s No 4 ranked welterweight, was in July 2019
The UFC quickly changed plans and offered the Usman bout to Dan Burns instead, but that fight also fell through due to Burns returning a positive covid-19 test.
Jorge Masvidal then took Usman on in the final hours and lost via decision.
Fast forward a couple more months and even more bad luck came Edwards’ way.
Khazmat Chimaev quickly shot himself to stardom amid the global pandemic with two brutal victories in the span of ten days at both welterweight and middleweight.
His abrupt burst onto the scene saw him offered a fight with Edwards, and while the Brit would usually take a bout against someone with more credentials, the prospect of stopping the Chimaev hype train was a tempting one.
However, three weeks before their fight set for December 2020, Edwards pulled out due to a positive coronavirus test. The Brit lost 12 pounds in a matter of days as a result of contracting the virus, but quickly recovered his health.
Edwards turned down a title shot vs Karamu Usman due to lack of preparation in lockdown
But now 18 months after he last entered the octagon, Edwards returns this weekend and Simpson insisted he is coming into his prime.
‘He’s only 29 and coming into his prime,’ Simpson said.
‘Having the ability to take 18 months off and not be injured, and build a new body and skill set, it will be interesting to compare him to what he was before. How often does a professional athlete get to put everything on pause and come back in a new body with a new skill set?
‘There’s a thought there by Leon that this was all part of a bigger plan, and he’s looking at it as a time of improvement, rather than time wasted.’
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