Erdington UFC star Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards (Jamaica/UK) has retained his Welterweight title, beating Kamura Usman (Nigeria/USA) in a confident five round fight– winning on points by a majority judges’ decision.
Fending off continuous attempts by Usman to grapple Edwards to the floor, the UK world champion stayed strong on his feet and out boxed his way to final victory.
The UK based UFC fight, held at the 02 Arena in London, was the third time the two UFC stars had met in the octagon – with each fighter having won one of the previous two fights.
When Edwards won the Welterweight title from Usman in August 2022, he was losing on points until a decisive head kick in the fifth round that sent Usman crashing to the mat and Edwards home wearing the belt.
This time, however, Edwards held a confident stance from the start, landing continuous leg kicks and slipping or blocking Usmans attempts at head shots.
Round one saw each man test their opponent, with Usman holding the centre of the ring and Edwards picking up points with some well placed leg kicks.
Round two saw the first of Usman’s take downs, and the first of Edwards’ resilient responses to his opponent’s attempts to pin him to the mat.
In round three Edwards lost a potentially crucial point during another attempt from Usman to grapple the Birmingham fighter onto the floor, alongside a low blow that paused the fight and saw Edwards issued with a warning.
However, out maneuvering Usman throughout the fight, Edwards went on to dominate rounds four and five – albeit a close call at every step – displaying supreme control and fortitude whilst Usman seemed to be grasping for a take down.
In a flurry of well landed punches during the tail end of round five, Edwards secured his title, with most of the audience already applauding his win before the judge’s final decision.
Through a display of controlled and professional power, Leon Edwards showed the world just why he is the deserved holder of the UFC Welterweight belt – giving the young people in Edrington a home ground role model they can both identify with and be proud of.
After the fight, Kamura Usman told BT Sports: “He (Edwards) had a great gameplan. I always said from the start we’d meet again and I’m not done. We will see each other again.
“I always gave him props for what he’s accomplished. He’s a brother like myself and great respect. London you’ve got yourself a great champion.”
Waiting in the wings, however, was cocky Colby Ray Covington – current No2 in the UFC Welterweight rankings and a likely contender to face off against Edwards in the next title fight.
Erdington UFC star Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards will defend his Welterweight title on Saturday 18 March, stepping back into the Octagon to face Kamaru Usman (Nigeria/USA) – the man whom Edwards took the belt from in August 2022.
Promoted as UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3, the event will also see Lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje (USA) and Rafael Fiziev (Azerbaijan) face each other as part of the evening’s main card contests.
Further main card bouts will see Flyweights Joanne Wood (Scotland) verses Luana Carolina (Brazil), and Welterweights Gunnar Nelson (Iceland) verses Bryan Barberena(USA), in the first UFC pay per view event to be held in the UK since 2016.
There will also be several prelim bouts at UFC 286, including Featherweights Nathaniel Wood (UK) verses Lerone Murphy (UK) and Jack Shore (UK) verses Makwan Amirkhani (Finland), alongside Lightweights Sam Patterson (UK) verses Yanal Ashmoz (Israel).
Since Edward’s knockout win in August 2022, the British representing UFC stars have hoped the champ’s success will bring more domestic attention to the worldwide sport. UFC head honcho, Dana White, was also quick to announce the title challenge would be held in the UK.
However, rumours were that Usman would not be able to commit the London based contest, after fellow Welterweight MMA star Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson told sport media: “Kamaru Usman is having hand surgery, I know they (Leon Edwards) want to fight somebody in March and they were looking at Jorge Masvidal.
“He’s a stand-up fighter, which kind of inspires me a little bit because our division is heavy wrestlers, and Leon Edwards is a striker and he’s champ.”
It was also briefly speculated the world title fight might be held at Villa Park, after the Birmingham raised Edwards told UK Talk Sport last October: “To have it back in Birmingham in Villa (Park)… that would be amazing.
“I don’t think there’s a roof though at Villa, so it would probably be a bit difficult to do in early next year around February/March/April.
“To have the guy from Birmingham be able to do it, to achieve it. To bring it back now, it would sell out straight away.”
But the clash of the UFC titans is now fully confirmed for the 20,000 capacity 02 Arena, with one man set to walk home once again as UFC Welterweight Champion of the World on Saturday 18 March.
Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman have met in the ring twice before, with Usman defeating the Jamaica born and Birmingham raised Edwards by unanimous judge’s decision in December 2015. However, when the pair met for a title fight last summer, Edwards came back to win via knockout – delivering a kick to the head that floored Usman in the final moments of the contest.
Held in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), on 21 August 2022, Usman was leading confidently on points until the last couple of rounds – when Edwards eventually feinted to get his opponent off guard and landed the decisive knockout blow direct to the temple.
In a post-match interview, an emotional and victorious Edwards told the world: “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.”
Leon Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his brother Fabian to Birmingham when he was a teenager – training at the now closed MMA gym on Erdington High Street.
Getting his first title fight after beating Californian Nate Diaz in June 2021, Edwards went on to make history as the UK’s second only ever UFC Champion and Birmingham’s first world title holder in the sport.
Since winning the world crowing fight in August ‘22, Leon Edwards’ portrait has been painted front and centre on a community mural by the old Maplin site at Six Ways Island – which identifies all the aspects of Erdington people can be proud of.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan, who’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience is listened to by nearly 13m subscribers worldwide, has long championed Leon Edwards.
After the knockout victory against Usman, 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, just over 6 months later, Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards and Kamaru Usman will face each other once again to settle the one all score – with the coveted Welterweight Champion belt returning to its rightful owner.
Leon Edwards will fight Kamaru Usman on Saturday 18 March, at the O2 Arena in London – with pay per view streaming options online. For more on UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3, visit www.ufc.com/event/ufc-286
Erdington UFC star Leon Edwards has entered the sporting stratosphere after one of the greatest wins in combat sports.
In the early hours of Sunday Leon “Rocky” Edwards created sporting history by beating Kamaru Usman to win the UFC Welterweight Championship of the World in Salt Lake City.
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.
The UFC’s official countdown documentary released last week surpassed a million views on YouTube within days.
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.
Leon said: “When I was 13 my dad got killed, he got shot in London, that is someone you look upto for all your life, and to know the way how he died you build a rebellious state of mind.
“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?”
Bemused, Edwards replied: “You know what car I drive, a Mercedes, what’s wrong with that? See, I am in your head man.”
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.
Erdington’s own UFC fighter Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards has finally been given a shot at world title glory.
The UFC announced Edwards will be the latest challenger for the welterweight crown, currently held by Kamaru Usman.
The world title fight will headline UFC 278 on Saturday, 20 August, in Salt Lake City, Utah, America.
Edwards has previously lost to Usman in 2015 and is the heavy outsider for the bout with bookmakers – but the mixed marshal artist is confident, having been unbeaten in ten consecutive fights.
Edwards, aged 30, believes he is ready for the biggest fight of his life. He said: “I’ve been preparing for this fight for seven years.
“I’ve been preparing for this fight since I last lost to him – I’ve been watching him, studying him and figuring out ways to beat him.”
He added: “So to have a title opportunity and go back and get revenge for your last loss six or seven years ago – to take the title off him as well is such a bonus. It’s perfect.”
During the last fight Usman out wrestled Edwards, but the Jamaican born Erdington trained fighter believes he is older and wiser now.
He said: “That’s how I lost last time so I’m not going to lose like that again. I’m a totally different fighter now, just with my understanding of MMA.”
“When I first fought, I was more of a striker than anything – my striking got me to the UFC, so I just relied on that to be champion. But I found that I couldn’t.”
He added: “I’m 30 now and have learned so much, improved so much, and understand so much more now.”
Edwards has not fought since June 2021 when he defeated Nate Diaz on points after weathering a late charge by the Californian brawler.
His fight with Belal Muhammad in March the same year, was halted after Edwards accidentally poked his opponent in the eye in the second round – with the injury causing the fight to be stopped and declared ‘no contest’.
The previous two years proved frustrating for Edwards with several bouts cancelled due to Covid-19.
If victorious, Edwards will automatically become one of the biggest stars in world combat sports as the UFC welterweight division is one of the most contested in world sports.
Edwards brother Fabian has also been making a name for himself in MMA by winning several high profile fights in Bellator, his latest fight being screened on the BBC.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Leon Edwards moved to Birmingham in his early teens and entered the world of professional MMA after training at the UTC gym on Erdington High Street.
Edwards has been a public challenger of gang and street violence, often using his profile you encourage young people to stay away from criminality.
A spate of knife crime deeply affected Edwards after the video of his friend’s cousin being stabbed to death in Oldbury was widely circulated online. He immediately told his management and the UFC he wanted to do something, and now he and fellow UK fighters Darren Till and Jimi Manuwa are working on launching a new anti-knife crime organisation.
Edwards told MMA Junkie: “For me, I grew up in that same environment. I understand what these kids are going through and what’s going through their heads.
“I retweeted a video a few weeks ago on my Instagram about that kid getting stabbed in Birmingham – one of my friends’ cousins. It was heart breaking to actually see the video, because you hear about it all the time. On that same day, that video of that guy that got stabbed, there was another three stabbings in that same day.
“So, I messaged my management straight away and said ‘what can I do to help?’ And set something up that can help and prevent this. Jimi Manuwa reached out to me literally the next day and he was saying the same thing as me and it would be good to get Till involved as well.
“We all came from the same situation as these kids. We all understand the kids. I think martial arts changed our lives and it can hopefully change someone else’s life.”
He added: “At first the plan that came was like we are going to join someone else’s organisation. Our thing is though we want to do our own thing. We want to do it in our own way. We don’t want to join a pre-existing organisation. So at the moment it’s bouncing ideas, speaking to the UFC – they want to be involved as well. We think we are going to be doing our own thing with the UFC. It’s moving forward and we are getting more people involved which is good.”
Edwards, who was due to headline a global UFC event against Tyrone Woodley in March in London before the sports world came to a grinding halt, understands lack of money for local youngsters is a major problem.
He added: “It’s about getting them into martial arts. Some of these kids don’t have money to come to the gym and can’t afford the memberships. So somehow we are trying to get it so the government can help us get these kids in the gym for free basically by covering the costs and we teach them, we mentor them and use the UFC to help as well..”
The Jamaican born fighter, whose brother Fabian is also an MMA star, added: “It’s been going on for a very long time now. Youth violence in the UK, especially Birmingham and London knife crime, it’s been massive.
“I’m trying to bring awareness to it and trying to see what I could do to help, because I remember being in environments like that growing up as a kid with my friends, so I would love to try and help and put awareness to it.”
The former Aston Manor Academy pupil admitted he could easily have fallen into a life of crime growing but his mother forced him to join a gym.
He added: “When I grew up as a kid, I was involved in gangs and stuff like that. My mum took me to the gym to keep me away from my friends, to try and make a better life for myself.
“I stuck to it. It’s changed my life. It changed my family’s life, and I’ve been trying to push it, push it, push it in the UK, to say martial arts has changed my life and it could also change your life.”
In January, Edwards secured his financial future by penning a multi-fight deal with Las Vegas based UFC after becoming a fan favourite with his signature post-chinch elbow move.
In a statement released through his management company Paradigm Sports, he said: “I am excited to re-sign with the world’s foremost MMA promotion.
“I have had an incredible run in the UFC thus far, and this contract secures my financial position as I make my run towards the welterweight title.”