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Leon Edwards reacts to UFC 278 win over Kamaru Usman: ‘The way he folded, I thought, he’s done’

Leon Edwards made history Saturday night in Salt Lake City, knocking out Kamaru Usman with a minute left in the clock to win the welterweight championship in a massive upset at UFC 278.

Usman was ahead on points after dropping the first round but winning the next three in all scorecards, and Edwards needed a stoppage to come out victorious. And he did that, landing a vicious kick to the head to dethrone the “Nigerian Nightmare” at the 4:04 mark of the fifth stanza.

“The way he folded, I thought, he’s done,” Edwards said with a laugh at the post-fight press conference in Utah. “It was a clean, clean, clean head kick, as clean as it could get.”

Edwards was definitely happy winning the 170-pound championship, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with his performance throughout the 24 minutes of action.

“Even though that was one of my worst performances, I didn’t feel good in there tonight,” he said. “I went out there and knocked out the pound-for-pound, so it is what it is … Going into it I knew it was going to be a tough fight, I said it all week. He’s good, but I believed I was the better man even though that was one of my worst performances. It is what it is, I got a clean finish.”

Edwards’ finish will be in the conversation for best knockout and comeback of the year, and also one of the biggest upsets of 2022, and he needed a strong mind to stay “focused throughout the fight” after losing three of the first four rounds. Edwards said his body “wasn’t reacting right” in the fight, and altitude could take part of the blame.

“When I went out there after he first round I felt it, I felt like my body just wasn’t reacting,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t like a cardio issue, it was more like my body just wasn’t physically reacting. But I stayed focused, my coaches just kept reminding me that you’re still in the fight, you’re the best, and fight to the end. That combination, I was drilling with coaches, that cross head kick, and dirt landed perfectly. … I did in the Belal [Muhammad] fight but ended in an eye poke. But it was the same combination, which is cross head kick, and it just landed perfectly.”

“Even if you’re down, just always believe in yourself, always work hard,” he added. “I got good training camp back in Birmingham, we drilled clean combinations. I told you I was approaching this fight as a new fight, I wasn’t looking at seven years ago when I first fought Kamaru. What he does now, his flaws and what he does good, and tonight I exposed one of his flaws.”

A trilogy match is likely next after “Rocky” avenged a 2015 decision defeat to Usman in shocking fashion, stopping him from tying Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive wins in UFC history, and Edwards wants home-field advantage. Moments after UFC president Dana White briefly mentioned Wembley Stadium as a possible venue for their third encounter, an arena that had around 100,000 fans in attendance for Tyson Fury vs. Dillian Whyte this past April, Edwards said “it has to be done.”

“I knew going into it that more than likely we were going to rematch down the line,” Edwards said. “He’s been a long champion, they say he’s the pound-for-pound best all week, he believed it. As I said in the octagon, the belt belongs to nobody. No man is meant to hold the belt for that long. I said it all week, I felt like this is my moment, this how it was meant to play out, all the layoff, all the COVID, all that, that’s how it was meant to play out. As I felt all week, we got a clean finish.

“Let’s run it back at Wembley with Kamaru. That was the best he had to offer and that was the worst I had to offer and I still got the finish.”

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