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Leon Edwards targets October return, laughs off Colby Covington’s claim he’ll be stripped of title

UFC 286: Gaethje v Fiziev Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Leon Edwards wants to see the welterweight division determine a true No. 1 contender while he takes time off to rest and heal some nagging injuries.

The reigning 170-pound UFC champion is less than a month removed from his second consecutive win over Kamaru Usman, yet he’s already heard rumors of a potential nexy fight against Colby Covington in July, possibly in London. As much as he loved fighting at home in March at UFC 286, Edwards said making a quick turnaround to defend his title in July just isn’t feasible. That’s why he’s looking at a return to action in the fall.

“July is 100-percent too soon,” Edwards told MMA Fighting on Thursday. “I fought in March, just under a month ago, and I’m still dealing with injuries and stuff that I had to deal with before I even consider getting back into a training camp. If I’m fighting in July, that means I’m going back into training camp next week, and that’s just not possible.

“I will look toward the back end of the year. I would love to do Abu Dhabi in October. I think that would be a great time frame for me to compete, but there’s actually no clear No. 1 contender. There’s no one actually out there that’s actually earned it. There’s guys coming off two losses, one win. There’s guys that [have] one win, one loss. It’s a difficult time in the welterweight division. So now I’ve just got to look towards business. I will sit back, talk to the UFC, talk to my team and see what’s best.”

While UFC President Dana White has said Covington is next in line for a title shot, Edwards doesn’t understand how that makes sense given the current landscape in the division.

Covington hasn’t fought in more than a year, with his most recent win coming in March 2022 against Jorge Masvidal, which put Covington at 2-2 over his past four fights.

Edwards can’t see how that warrants a title shot without the American at least getting one more win over another established contender like Gilbert Burns or Belal Muhammad.

“It’s weird — I don’t know why he’s getting pushed so much,” Edwards said. “He’s coming off two losses to the guy that I just currently beat [in Kamaru Usman], and then went and beat a guy in Masvidal that’s just retired, and now sat out for over a year. Turned down Gilbert [Burns], turned down Khamzat [Chimaev], turned down Belal [Muhammad], and then come back to a title shot? It’s weird. It’s something that I’ve never seen before.

“When I was going through the pandemic, having fight cancellations, Khamzat pulled out twice, I pulled out once, Masvidal pulled out, all these fights falling through — I got removed from the rankings for that, even though it was out of my control and wasn’t my fault. I got removed out of the rankings.

“For a guy to be fit and healthy, [sit] on the sidelines, turn down three or four fights and then say he wants to fight for the title, it doesn’t make sense. I feel like they should do it like I did it. Just shut up and fight. I earned my position. I worked for it. But these guys want handouts and freebies, and that’s not the way it works.”

Following UFC 287 this past weekend, Covington spoke to Submission Radio and said he was assured he will get a title shot this summer. If Edwards doesn’t accept the fight, Covington said the U.K. champ will be stripped of his title.

Edwards couldn’t help but laugh at that suggestion, especially considering he’s had no formal conversations with the UFC whatsoever regarding his next fight, much less received ultimatums that he has to face Covington.

“There’s no fight offer,” he said. “The UFC hasn’t even spoke to us. There’s no talks of that fight happening. He is talking just to talk. But as far as getting stripped, this is a guy that’s sat out for a year, turned down fight after fight, so he’s talking just to talk. I’m one that always took every fight. I took Khamzat when nobody wanted to fight Khamzat. I took him three times when everyone was turning him down. So it is what it is.

“I’m coming off a fight against one of the top welterweights in the world, Kamaru Usman, just under a month ago. It hasn’t been a month yet since I fought Usman. There’s no stripping here. I am willing to fight whoever, whenever, as long as they deserve it and the time frame is right.”

Ideally, Edwards would like to see Covington, Burns, or Muhammad get another win to then set up his next title defense later this year.

At that point, Edwards said he’ll have no complaints about an opponent. But he refuses to reward anybody for just sitting, waiting, and just hoping for a shot at gold.

“Instead of sitting around complaining, fight each other,” he said. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t. If you truly believe you’re the No. 1 contender, you should want to fight these guys, to prove to everybody, ‘There’s no one in my way. It’s me next.’ For some reason these guys want to sit out, complain, moan about the title shot without fighting.

“I had to do 10 in a row to get my title shot. These guys are coming off one win, one loss, one win, one loss, and demanding title shots. For sure, I feel like they should fight each other. Either Colby vs. Belal or Burns vs. Colby, however they want to do it. Whoever wins, that’s me next.”

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