By Erdington Local editorial team
Erdington UFC star Leon Edwards has entered the sporting stratosphere after one of the greatest wins in combat sports.
The last time the pair met in the octagon was in 2015 ended with Usman winning on points. This time entering the last round Edwards needed a knockout to win, with 30 seconds to go in the fight Edwards delivered a kick which shocked the world, connecting perfectly on the champions temple instantly knocking him out.
A lot has changed since the first fight in 2015 Usman went on to become world champion with a record breaking run of title defenses and mainstream recognition being offered a role in the forthcoming Marvel film Black Panther.
Edwards went back to basics determined to improve his grappling game which let him down in the first fight. He tried training in America but returned home after a few months determined to break the convention MMA champions needed to be in based in the USA to succeed.
In his post victory interview Edwards emotionally shouted: “Look at me now. Look at me now. I told you we could win from the UK, no-one believed me, but look at me now.”
Now the darling of the British media but just a couple years ago Erdington Local were writing pre and post fight reports about Edwards in the Midlands mainstream media, first approaching him for an interview in 2019. For the last a year Local have been trying to find a sponsor to paint a mural of Edwards in Erdington, we have a feeling it will be a lot easier now.
We knew we had our own star and are delighted everyone realises the man from Short Heath is Birmingham’s most successful.
The UFC welterweight championship is one of the most keenly contested belts in combat sports, its a global sport and Edwards is the only UK champion, only the second UK fighter to win a UFC belt, and the only to win the strap based in the UK. Other UFC champions are from Brazil, Nigeria and America as its a global star so even having a Brummie in the mix should have been huge news but it wasn’t, it took him to win the belt for everyone to notice.
Usman was the pound for pound best fighter in the entire UFC, he was on an unbeaten run which stretched back years. Edwards was such an underdog one Las Vegas casino reported 95% of money was on Usman to win.
Erdington featured heavily in the hour long video which has been seen across the world.
Describing Erdington as a “crime ridden area of Birmingham” cameras followed Edwards to the Jarvis Road estate where he lived after moving from Kingston, Jamaica as a child.
Speaking over lingering camera shots of lines of washing hanging on dirty balconies of Berkley House, Leon said: “Jarvis Road, this was where I grew up.
“Me, my younger brother and my mom, my older brother and my sister, five people in a two bed apartment, you can imagine the living space.
“If you do not find something to do you will end up getting stuck in this enviornoment, hanging around the streets and smoking weed and just messing around doing nothing.”
Edwards father was a prominent drug dealer in Jamaica but his nefarious activities cut short when he was murdered visiting London.
“I went through a stage in my teenage years when I was getting into gang fights and doing the activities my dad had been involved in, until age of 17 when I met martial arts.
“My mom introduced me to it so I’d keep off the streets. The more I delved into it the more I fell in love with it.”
In the documentary Edwards can be seen in tear when his post- Covid comeback fight ended in a no contest after he poked his opponent in the eye by mistake. Repeating the call to his mother after his title victory he told her: “I told you I would change your life”.
By his side was his brother Fabian who is also forging a successful MMA career in Belator.
With six fights being either cancelled or postponed since Covid, Edwards and UFC supremo Dana White frequently bickered on Twitter with the yoyo-ing of Birmingham fighter’s world ranking a frequent bone of contention.
After seeing Usman lying on the floor Edwards jumped over the Octogan and slapped White on the hand and then thanked him in the ring for giving him a chance in the UFC.
Edwards joked his way through Thursday’s press conference in front of thousands of fans showing he was no way being overawed by the big stage.
Dressed in a cream sweatshirt the Brummie was in sharp contrast to “Nigerian Nightmare” who was wearing an electric green suit with a gold chain resting on his bare chest.
Usman then tried to mock Edwards car, repeatedly asking: “What car do you drive back home?”
Edwards, whose nickname is Rocky, got the biggest laugh of the press conference when he was asked which Rocky opponent Usman was like – Apollo Creed or Clubber Lang and he replied : Adrianne” (Rocky Balboa’s wife).
At 35, five years older than his challenger, and with all the trappings of fame, the fleet of cars, film appearances and over-the-top flash clothes as well as three easy previous opponents, Usman was ripe for an upset.
With 30 seconds left in the five round fight in Salt Lake City Edwards was losing on the judges cards and could only win by knockout. With the words of his trainer ringing in his ears: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Your two (rounds) down, you need to pull it out the fire”
Edwards delivered the perfect head kick, he feinted one way so Usman moved his head the other leaving his temple wide open for a shin which connected knocking him out. He was taken to hospital afterwards.
However, showing the grace of a champion Usman tweeted the next day: “Champs f*ck up sometimes… but we bounce back and come with vengeance. Damn I love this sport! Things happen but Alhamdulillah we move!! Congratulations Leon Edwards.”
In an interview which will be watched for years to come after getting the belt Edwards said through the tears: “I can’t put it into words. It’s been a long four years. They all doubted me, they all said I couldn’t do it. Look at me now! I’m from the trenches, I’m built like this. I do it for everyone coming behind me. I told you it was possible. We can win a belt, from the UK.”
UFC commentator Joe Rogan, who has the biggest podcast in the world, has long championed Edwards, learning all about the fighters back story during an episode last year.
He told Edwards: “You have accomplished one of the hardest things in combat sports you beat the best fighter in the world, you are champion of the world.”
Now the world is Edwards oyster. The prospect of his first defence being held in Wembley Stadium, the first UFC event ever held at the national stadium.
Usman might be opponent. Or he might not.
But the boy from Jarvis Road will most definitely be in the Octogan making history.
For more on Leon Edwards visit www.ufc.com/athlete/leon-edwards