On the cusp of his first UFC fight, Te Edwards is minding his manners.
The reason for Edwards’ relatively reserved approach to his upcoming Octagon debut against Don Madge is not because he shies away from talking trash; in fact, the 28-year-old would prefer to embrace that part of the fight game when possible. His reason for staying mum is far more practical.
Edwards (6-1) has spoken in the past about how his Division I wrestling background and penchant for fast finishes made it difficult for him to find opponents on the regional scene, and he knew that chirping at any prospective foes would only increase the likelihood that they find some reason not to fight him. That’s not as much of an issue for him after securing a contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, but he didn’t want to chance Madge, a standout in South Africa’s Extreme Fighting Championship promotion, bowing out of their UFC Moncton encounter.
“I normally would [engage in the back-and-forth] just for fun, I enjoy being competitive, I enjoy the trash talk and all the entertainment aspect, but from his history, I’ve seen he hasn’t fought a whole lot of tough guys,” Edwards recently told MMA Fighting. “I don’t know if he really has the heart to do all that and still not pull out. I thought he pulled out of his last fight. He apparently got hurt against (David) Teymur, he pulled out of his last fight, so I think he’s trying to be smart about his matchup because it was his debut and he had big hype coming out of EFC or whatever it was.
“So if I wasn’t so concerned about him pulling out of the fight and me missing out on my paycheck, I probably would give him more of a hard time, see if he had the mental fortitude to deal with the trash talk.”
Competing in the crowded lightweight division, it’s not as if Edwards will have a shortage of competition or opponents willing to verbally joust with him should he manage to climb up the ranks. At the very top of his weight class are two of the sport’s biggest names, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, and he pointed to them as an example of how well fighters can build up a match even if the dialogue sometimes crosses the line.
“I’m a cynic and I like violence, so I thought it was awesome,” said Edwards.
“These are guys that actually live and breathe combat every day,” he continued. “So jumping over a cage and fighting another person for a couple of seconds isn’t a big deal to anybody. The rest of society thinks fighting is this terrifying thing and no one should fight, and we do this for fun and get paid for it, so I don’t think it’s a big deal. I thought it was hilarious.”
While Edwards has a long way to go before being mentioned in the same breath as Nurmagomedov and McGregor, he almost found a fast — and possibly unhealthy — way to vault his way to the front of the contenders’ line. According to Edwards, he was offered the opportunity to fight Justin Gaethje as a replacement for Al Iaquinta at UFC Lincoln back in August, but was unable to accept due to having military responsibilities. The spot was eventually taken by James Vick.
With that missed opportunity in the back of his mind, Edwards is just happy that he has a healthy opponent lined up. He plans to let his wrestling do the talking against Madge, suggesting he might go for a suplex finish to snag himself a performance bonus, and then put his money where his mouth is once he’s able to land more high-profile opponents in the future.
“Maybe a couple of fights in, when I have some guys that I know have a stable career and they’re not concerned about whether or not they’re going to lose their spot on the UFC roster, then I’ll make it more entertaining and talk a little bit more and bring different verbal aspects of the game,” said Edwards. “But for now, I just need him to show up so I can make a statement.”
Edwards meets Madge on the Fight Pass prelims of Saturday’s UFC card at the Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.