Leon Edwards has the series advantage in his trilogy with Kamaru Usman and he expects UFC 286 to signal the end of it.
The British star successfully defended the UFC welterweight title in Saturday’s main event at The O2 in London, giving him two wins in three fights against Usman after he defeated him at UFC 278 this past August via fifth-round head kick knockout. Their third meeting went to the judges, with Edwards winning a majority decision.
After spending almost an hour in the cage together, Edwards says there’s no ill will between he and Usman.
“Just competitive,” Edwards said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do next. There was never no beef between me and Kamaru. I feel we both just felt we was the better man and that was it. You heard his words after the fight and I feel the same way. I wish him well. The sport is hard, so respect to him.”
However, as much as he respects Usman, he doesn’t expect to have to fight him a fourth time. At least not anytime soon.
“Probably not,” Edwards answered when asked about fighting Usman again. “It’s been three fights now and I want to move forward in my career. I’ll look towards more different fights.”
The next title defense for Edwards could be Colby Covington, who weighed in as a backup for Saturday’s main event and has been anointed by UFC President Dana White as Edwards’ next challenger. Several other welterweights loom, including Edwards rival Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns (who meet UFC 287 on April 8), past Edwards opponent Belal Muhammad, and top contender Shavkat Rakhmonov.
Edwards has a lot of work to do to match Usman’s streak of five straight title defenses and 15 consecutive victories, but having two wins over the former champion has already taken Edwards’ reputation to the next level.
He explained how he toppled Usman a second straight time, even with his secret weapon from their previous fight being well-scouted.
“I knew him and his team would be working the defense to it because I kind of told him the reason why I caught him with the head kick, so I knew they’d be working the defense to it,” Edwards said. “This is why I was attacking the legs, attacking the body, trying to get his arms to drop a bit lower, but yeah, fair play to him for taking the shot. He’s a tough champion, he had a good run in the division and I wish him well in whatever he wants to do next.”
Whether it’s Covington, Burns, Masvidal, or even Conor McGregor (who recently stated he may hunt for a 170-pound title shot after settling his business with Michael Chandler on The Ultimate Fighter 31), Edwards believes that a worthy challenger will present themselves and that he’ll be ready to step back into the cage to defend his belt as soon as possible.
“Like I said, anyone can get it,” Edwards said. “Prove your case in the division and I’ll give you a title shot. I want to be an active champion. I’m only young, so I want to be fighting. If you prove your case, then I’ll fight you. That’s it.”