This past Saturday at UFC 263, Leon Edwards was given a showcase opportunity to stake his claim for a welterweight title shot when he fought Nate Diaz in the UFC’s first ever five-round non-main event, non-title fight. Unfortunately for Edwards, the showcase didn’t go quite as planned.
Though Edwards won a clear decision over Diaz, in the final minute of the bout, Stockton’s finest rocked the Birmingham native and nearly finished the fight, putting Edwards’ title hopes in jeopardy. Following the bout, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman basically said as much, commenting that the last minute heroics from Diaz did not help Edwards’ case for a title shot and UFC President Dana White confirmed as much when he doubled down that former interim champion Colby Covington would be next in line. Edwards was not particularly happy about this turn of events but if that’s the way things are, then “Rocky” says he’s content to sit on the sidelines and face the winner later this year.
“Let’s say they do give Colby the title shot, I’m not fighting no one else unless it’s a title shot. That’s just it,” Edwards told the UFC’s John Gooden. “I’m not gonna start fighting 10, 11, 12 fights and still ain’t got a title shot. I’ve earned my way. I didn’t b*tch and moan when I took my loss against Kamaru. I worked my way back up to now have a 9, 10-fight win streak. I feel like I deserve it.
“Colby went and got knocked out for the title shot, went and got a weird win, and now is back in for a title shot, which is f*cked up. It is what it is but let’s say they do give him the title shot, then I’ll fight the winner later on this year but I’m not fighting no one else.”
Edwards is in a difficult situation. After losing to Usman back in 2015, Edwards then put together an eight-fight winning streak that had him knocking on the door of a title shot. Unfortunately, injuries and COVID-19 kept him out of the cage for nearly two years and when he finally did return earlier this year against Belal Muhammad, an eye poke from Edwards caused the bout to end in a No Contest just 18 seconds into the second round. Now with the Diaz ending, though Edwards feels he deserves a title shot, he may well need to have one more bout and there’s one name that seems to make the most sense: Jorge Masvidal.
Edwards and Masvidal have a history dating back to UFC London in 2019 where, during a backstage confrontation, Masvidal attacked Edwards with the now infamous “three-piece with the soda.” After the incident, Edwards campaigned for a fight with Masvidal but “Gamebred” pursued more lucrative bouts, including a pair of title shots against Usman. Now though, following his second loss to Usman, Masvidal is looking for a top-five opponent and Edwards may well fit the bill. The only problem is that now Edwards is the one not interested in the fight.
“I know they’re talking about Masvidal but I’ve been asking to fight Masvidal f*cking two or three years ago,” Edwards said. “Like, running him down but he kept turning me down and saying ‘Nah, I don’t want to fight,’ even though the UFC wanted it. Now I feel he’s just been chinned for the world title, I don’t feel I need to do that now. I’ll wait for my title shot. I worked hard to get here and that’s just more time to plan.”
But though he is less interested in it, that hasn’t stopped the two from chirping at each other. After UFC 263, Masvidal commented on Edwards’ performance, saying it was a good performance but saying that Edwards is “not a fighter.” The two then exchanged shots via social media, with Masvidal now seemingly campaigning for the fight.
If the UFC feels Edwards needs another win before getting a title shot, a fight with Masvidal makes sense and though Edwards remains firm that he believes he’s already done enough to get a title shot, given his history with Masvidal, Edwards does say that the UFC might could sway him otherwise.
“Let’s just see how it plays out,” Edwards say. “If they come to me with a good deal and good money, probably. I might think about it. But right now my mind is totally focused on the world title shot….
“(2022) will be my year. I’ll be a world champion by the end of the year. I can feel it. Everything happens for a reason and however it plays out, it plays out, but I will be a world champion by the end of the year.”
Feud. Jorge Masvidal targets UFC return, says lack of ‘grit’ and ‘meanness’ holding Leon Edwards back: ‘He’s not a fighter’.
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