Leon Edwards: New UFC champion calls for Wembley fight after beating Kamaru Usman


Leon Edwards celebrates with his team after beating Kamaru Usman
Edwards has won the UFC welterweight title at his first opportunity

Leon Edwards wants his first title defence to be at Wembley Stadium after shocking Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Briton, 30, knocked out Nigeria’s Usman with a left high-kick in the fifth round when it looked like he was heading for defeat on points.

In doing so he became the first British UFC champion since Michael Bisping in 2016 and only the second in history.

“Bring it back home to Wembley, let the UK enjoy it,” said Edwards.

“I’ve worked hard to get it. I didn’t go to America to achieve it, I did it from the UK. I did it from a little city – Birmingham. With Team Renegade, a small team.

“I always said I’d do it from there so little kids know they can do it as well. Now I hope it inspires them to believe in your team, believe in your country, work hard and achieve your goal.”

In beating fellow welterweight and pound-for-pound number one Usman, 35, Edwards pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

Usman had been champion for more than three years, had defended his title five times and was aiming to equal Anderson Silva’s record of 16 successive victories in the UFC.

He had beaten Edwards in 2015, with the Briton winning nine fights in a row to set up the rematch.

UFC president Dana White praised Edwards in his post-fight press conference, but was indecisive at the possibility of bringing the UFC to Wembley Stadium.

“When you get a moment like that, where everyone in the arena at the same time, everyone at home watching at the same time, everyone in bars just explodes, it’s pretty special,” said White.

“I’m serious, but joking about Wembley [Stadium], but anything is possible in England now,” he said.

“It would be fun, but scary at the same time. The weather isn’t the greatest there in England. We were selling out in England before, but now you’re looking at ‘do we go to a bigger arena’? It would be fun.”

‘I wanted to prove it could be done from the UK’

Bisping’s middleweight title defence over Dan Henderson in Manchester in 2016 represents the only time so far a Briton has defended a UFC title on home soil.

Bisping lived and trained in America at the time however, making Edwards the first British champion to achieve the feat while being based solely in the UK.

There has never been a UFC event at Wembley Stadium before, with the promotion’s two events in England this year taking place at the O2 Arena in London.

Edwards, who was born in Jamaica but moved to Birmingham aged nine, says he hopes his win can kickstart a successful era for British MMA.

“I know Bisping did it first but he did it from America so it was hard for me to relate to being in the UK,” he said.

“That’s why I wanted to achieve this, to show it can be done from the UK.

“UK MMA is on the rise and I’m happy now to be the frontrunner, to motivate the guys saying we can do more and there will be more champions coming out of the UK.”

‘Let me fight Masvidal or Usman’

Leon Edwards celebrates after beating Kamaru Usman
Edwards celebrated with a Conor McGregor-esque strut after defeating Usman

Following Edwards’ victory, a number of fighters, including Jorge Masvidal, Conor McGregor and Khamzat Chimaev, took to social media to call the new champion out.

Florida’s Masvidal has history with Edwards, after attacking him backstage in London following his win over Darren Till in 2019.

Masvidal landed a flurry of punches on Edwards – an incident which Masvidal refers to as the “three piece and a soda”.

Masvidal’s manager referred to the incident on Twitter, which Masvidal retweeted.

Rising star Chimaev, who headlines UFC 279 against Nate Diaz next month, also called Edwards out.

Sweden’s Chimaev, 28, was scheduled to face Edwards numerous times in 2020 and 2021 but pulled out after contracting Covid-19 and suffering lasting effects from the virus.

He is unbeaten in his MMA career, winning all 11 fights, and has impressed since joining the UFC in 2020.

Before Edwards’ victory, former featherweight and lightweight title holder McGregor also hinted he would like a chance to become the UFC’s first ever triple-division champion.

McGregor has been out for over a year after breaking his leg in defeat to Dustin Poirier last July.

Edwards says he would like to face Masvidal, but a trilogy bout with Usman seems the most likely option.

“Jorge would be good but he needs a win you know. Having him in the UK would be good, where the first incident happened,” said Edwards.

“But if not let’s run it back [with Usman] at Wembley. That was the worst I had to offer and I still got the finish. They all doubted me, now they’re calling me out.”

He continued: “I’ve got no beef with Kamaru, outside of fighting there’s nothing I don’t like about him. He’s done well for himself, provided for his family and that’s it.

“But I thought the hype was getting to his head. He thought that belt was his and nobody else could have it.

“That belt belongs to nobody, that’s what I believed in my heart and I went out there and proved it. I was the first guy to take him down, first to knock him out, now let’s see how he comes back.

“I am the best and I truly believe it in my heart. Nobody believed it but me and my team, and I proved it tonight.”

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