Edwards racked up his 10th straight fight without a loss in the welterweight division after a litany of cancelled fights and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. He dominated Diaz for more than four rounds before a late punch sent him into survival mode. Still, he earned a decision win by unanimous scores of 49-46.
“You’ve been hearing me say leading up to this fight that Leon Edwards is the kid with the worst luck ever in UFC history,” White said. “Goes in tonight into a five-round fight against a tough, durable Nate Diaz who’s always dangerous, and tonight was a great learning experience for him.
“He looked incredible in the entire fight, even when he got hurt. Kept his composure — I think it was a little bit of he got stung, and he was tired. You think about it, and that kid hasn’t fought in probably a year-and-a-half. So, great performance.”
Edwards admitted he had a close call with the gritty Diaz, who was the obvious favorite of the crowd at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. But he believed he was still the rightful No. 1 contender.
“There’s no one else that’s doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve offered to fight everybody ... everyone is sitting out and bitching and complaining. I’m the one that’s showing up and fighting, so I feel I deserve the next shot.”
Edwards might have been on the short list for a title shot had a scheduled fight with ex-champion Tyron Woodley in March 2020 not been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But instead, he sat on the sidelines as other top welterweights got a shot. Meanwhile, a scheduled fight with rising star Khamzat Chimaev was postponed before being called off entirely, and he took a short-notice bout with Belal Muhammad that was ruled a no contest due to his accidental eye poke.
Covington, who was later stripped of the interim title, was stopped by Usman when he eventually got a title shot at UFC 245. The standout wrestler and trash-talker repeatedly claimed the referee botched the call and didn’t give him a fair fight. He demanded a rematch and verbally attacked Usman on air after beating Woodley in his first fight since the failed bid for the belt.
Masvidal’s rivalry with Edwards — sparked by a backstage run-in that left him bloodied — would seem a possible substitute for Edwards if Covington got the next title shot. But White wasn’t ready to commit to that matchup just yet.
“That’s always a fight that we can make,” White said of Edwards vs. Masvidal. “That fight’s always going to be hanging out there. Leon’s the No. 3 ranked guy in the world, so we’ll see what’s next for him. I’m not sure if it’s Masvidal, but Colby Covington is the next guy in line for the title.”
If there’s any silver lining for Edwards, White has also said that anything could happen as the promotion begins lining up Usman’s next fight. Between the possibility of injuries and other hiccups at the negotiating table, the order of contenders could change.
But for right now, White said Covington is next in line.