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Morning Report: Kamaru Usman believes Nate Diaz would turn down a title shot if he beats Leon Edwards

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Next weekend Kamaru Usman will defend his welterweight title in a main event rematch with Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261. Usman and Masvidal first fought last July with Usman winning a wide decision but with the absence of any other clear cut welterweight contenders the UFC chose to run it back. Fortunately, should Usman once again prove victorious next weekend, the issue of clear top contender for “The Nigerian Nightmare” may be solved.

At the end of March it was announced that third-ranked welterweight contender Leon Edwards would be taking on Nate Diaz in a five-round co-main event fight at UFC 262 in May. It was an unexpected fight but one that Usman says should give Edwards the bump he needs to finally get a title shot.

“Yeah, it’s kind of a funky one,” Usman told ESPN. “They just kind of threw that in there on us but I like it. I really like the fight. I think it’s something that Leon Edwards desperately needed because I recognize his skills and I recognize how hard he’s worked since taking that loss to me. He’s worked very, very hard, he’s improved his wrestling, this guy is taking guys down, he’s submitting guys, he’s going the distance, five rounds with guys and he’s looking great.

“So I respect everything that he has done up to this point but the one thing that’s been lacking is the fact that he just didn’t have that recognition. The casual fans, if you mention his name to them they’re like, ‘Who’s that?’ It sucks to say but that was the case so a fight like this is something that can give him that recognition. If he goes out there and does what I think he’s capable of doing, come that next week people will know who Leon Edwards is and he makes a strong case for himself. You can’t deny him at that point. Eight-fight win streak, with that fight it will probably be nine so yeah it’s tough to deny the man a title shot.”

Edwards has been knocking on the door of a title shot for years but injuries and a lack of marquee names willing to fight him have stalled his chance to cement a shot at gold. Edwards was supposed to face red-hot prospect Khamzat Chimaev at the end of 2020 but COVID-19 forced that bout to be delayed several times before ultimately being cancelled. Instead, Edwards then faced Belal Muhammad in March but bad luck continued to plague him as the fight was stopped in the second round and declared a no-contest due to eye pokes. With the Diaz fight, Edwards is finally getting the opportunity to boost his Q Score with the wider audience and grab the top contender spot. And for Diaz, a win over Edwards immediately puts him in title contention, if that’s what he wants which Usman doubts.

“According to me? Absolutely,” Usman said when asked if Diaz would get a title shot with a win. “You know me. I don’t shy away from any challenge. I’ll take on anybody. But according to him? I think that’s the second case to where a fighter just flat out says, ‘You know what? I don’t even want a title shot. I’m good.’”

“I offered it to Conor when Conor was running his mouth that the third belt looked great to him and this and that and I said, ‘Yo, I’m here. I’m available. What date do you want to do it?’ But he was quiet. He didn’t respond. So that’s the first case where a guy was like, ‘You know what? I don’t want none of those problems. I don’t want to do it.’ And I think this will probably be the second case. If he was able to get that win, I think he will definitely be turning down that title shot.”

Diaz is an anomaly in MMA. A man who has openly spoken about his disdain for the traditional UFC titles, Diaz invented his own “Baddest Motherf*****” belt that the UFC eventually took to promote a fight between Diaz and Masvidal. However, Diaz has also publicly taken shots at Usman before, particularly when he was set to face Gilbert Burns last year at UFC 251 instead of Jorge Masvidal because the UFC and Masvidal could not agree to contract terms. With a win, perhaps Diaz will decide he doesn’t want to chase the “fairytale” belt anyway, and if so, Usman would be happy to oblige him.

“Absolutely,” Usman said when asked if he’d take the fight. “I want any fight and a fight like that, these are just fun fights for me. I’m starting to have fun with this, so these are just fun fights for me. Whether it’s Nate, whether it’s Leon, whether it’s Covington, they’re all fun fights for me now.”

UFC 261 takes place next Saturday, April 24 in Jacksonville, Fla.


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VIDEO STEW

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LISTEN UP

UFC Unfiltered. An interview with Robert Whittaker.


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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Michael Page (18-1) vs. Derek Anderson (17-3); Bellator 258, May 7.

Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-4) vs. Miguel Baeza (10-0); UFC Fight Night, June 5.

Douglas Lima (32-8) vs. Yaroslav Amosov (25-0); Bellator 260, June 11.

Amanda Nunes (21-4) vs. Julianna Peña (10-4); UFC 265, Aug. 7.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, and see y’all on Monday.


EXIT POLL

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If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

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