Leon Edwards aiming to beat Kamaru Usman to inspire the next generation of UFC fighters

  • Tom Ward
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Leon Edwards has never had it easy as he prepares to face Kamaru Usman.

UFC president Dana White confirmed ‘Rocky’ will get a second go at ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ after many years of waiting for an opportunity to fight for the welterweight title.

However, this isn’t the only adversity he has faced during his lifetime.

Growing up, Edwards was surrounded by crime, with some of his friends ending up in jail – or worse.

His father was shot and killed at a nightclub in London when he was 14 years old.

And that was what inspired him to start supporting the local community.

Now, 16 years on, he hopes revenge on Usman will mean that even more underprivileged teens will be motivated to follow their dreams.

Former BAMMA champion Edwards, 30, told GiveMeSport: “I haven’t lost since like six or seven years ago.

Jun 12, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Leon Edwards is declared the winner by decision against Nate Diaz during UFC 263 at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So to get the opportunity to go back, win the belt and to beat the last guy to beat me, it’s the icing on the cake.

“He’s improved loads, but so have I.

“When I fought him I was 22 years old, I’m now 30 years old. I’ve learnt a lot over that space of time but so has he.

“It’ll be a totally different fight from what it was back then, so if we both approach it from back then we’ll lose, so we have to look at it as a new fight and I’m looking forward to it.

“It would mean everything to me.

Jun 12, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Leon Edwards moves in for a hit as Nate Diaz defends during UFC 263 at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“This is what I’ve worked for, for me and my family, for my teammates and for the UK.

“I want to be able to show kids from underprivileged backgrounds that you don’t always finish where you start.

“You can put your mind to whatever you want to put your mind to.

“You can achieve anything, you can work towards it, and that’s what I’m bringing into the fight.”

Jun 12, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Leon Edwards applies a hold against Nate Diaz during UFC 263 at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now one of the top fighters in the welterweight division and a 23-fight MMA veteran – with his last appearance a unanimous decision win over fan favourite Nate Diaz – Edwards is using his platform as a force for good to inspire the next generation.

He added: “For kids, they need a blueprint to show how they can achieve stuff.

“It’s easy to go the hood and be like ‘don’t do this, don’t do that, look at this’ but you can’t resonate with that person.

“So for someone like me that I’ve been there and lived it, and now I’m doing what I’m doing, people can look at me as a blueprint.

“That’s how I got involved in MMA because we had guys in the gym that were fighting in the UFC already.

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“I could see their blueprint, what they were doing in training, what they’re eating, how they’re living.

“I copied that to get to the UFC and now here I am.

“So I think that’s what it is, show them a blueprint, show them what we do.

“I’m proud to be one of the frontrunners in the UK for MMA, for the UFC, to show that and to give back to the kids.”

Edwards was speaking at the launch of the UFC’s official partnership with UK youth charity OnSide. To learn more, visit UFCONSIDEYOUTHMENTORING.

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