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Leon Edwards’ manager: Homecoming fight in UK more important than opponent for first title defense

UFC 278: Usman v Edwards 2 Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Leon Edwards is barely two days removed from his stunning win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 278, but the new welterweight champion is already being pursued about what comes next.

Directly after his win, the 30-year-old British fighter acknowledged a trilogy against Usman makes the most sense after he lost to “The Nigerian Nightmare” in their first meeting in 2015 and then got his revenge this past Saturday night.

That said, Edwards’ longtime manager, Tim Simpson of Paradigm Sports, believes the location for his client’s next fight matters more than any particular opponent.

“I think a homecoming fight in the UK is the main goal,” Simpson said on The MMA Hour. “The opponent, we’ll figure it out but he wants to fight in the UK. I think he deserves that.

“It will be massive, and I think he deserves that homecoming. Full circle from 2018 getting booed in his home country. He’s the hero now, and he deserves it. Really, that’s the only thing we really, really want. The rest will fall into line.”

Back in 2020, Edwards was set to headline a UFC event at The O2 in London against ex-champion Tyron Woodley in a fight that could have easily resulted in a title shot opportunity. Sadly, the entire event was scrapped due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Edwards didn’t compete again until almost exactly one year later.

Lately, the UK has been a UFC hot spot after back-to-back shows in London that not only drew sellout crowds but an undeniably electric atmosphere.

Just after Edwards’ win, UFC President Dana White teased a possible event at Wembley Stadium. But he later walked back that comment, explaining his fear of doing a card in an outdoor stadium where weather is an unpredictable factor.

Simpson believes the massive stadium should still receive consideration, especially with the sheer number of people who would pack the house for a show headlined by a British champion.

“You could [do it in Wembley],” Simpson said. “There’s no way they wouldn’t sell that out. The UK fans, they sell out The 02 in, like, three minutes. People are clamoring for tickets.

“There’s so much talent there. Leon, I don’t want to rattle off all their names, but [Muhammad] Mokaev, Tom Aspinall, Arnold Allen, Paddy Pimblett and all them. They could easily sell that out. It would be huge.”

After traveling from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas this week, Simpson and Edwards plan on sitting down with the UFC at some point to discuss his future before the new welterweight champion returns home to England.

A conversation about potential opposition will almost assuredly come up with Usman’s name likely at the top of the list. But Jorge Masvidal is another person vying for that opportunity after he got involved in a backstage altercation with Edwards in 2019.

“Leon would love [to fight Masvidal], but how do you do that right now with where he’s at?” Simpson said. “I think Leon would love it. I mean you could sell that. He’s coming off like three or four losses. Who knows.

“I think [Usman makes the most sense] but again we’ll see what happens. It was quite a nasty knockout, you need time for that. What Usman wants to do as well, I’m sure that’s what he wants.”

Whatever opponent is ultimately offered doesn’t seem all that important, but Simpson is adamant about Edwards’ first title defense taking place close to home.

“We’re working in partnership with the UFC and we’ll see what they feel strongly about and work from there,” he said. “But really it’s the location, which is the biggest thing.

“As Leon said, ‘I’m top of the mountain now, bring them on.’ The thing we’ll really fight for is getting it in the UK.”

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