With Kamaru Usman as the 170lbs world champion in the UFC, he has consistently claimed that fighters are scared to fight him.
Since he won the Welterweight title from Tyron Woodley in March 2019 at UFC 235, he has defended the belt just one – against long-time rival Colby Covington. He’s scheduled now to defend the belt against teammate Gilbert Burns on July 11th at UFC 251 on Fight Island, after talks between the UFC and Jorge Masvidal collapsed. But Leon Edwards also claimed that he was offered the title shot for Fight Island, but terms couldn’t be agreed.
Masvidal wanted to be paid what he believed he is worth following three huge wins against Darren Till in London and Ben Askren in five-seconds at UFC 239 before a doctor’s stoppage win over Nate Diaz in a bout for the newly created ‘Baddest Mother Fucker’ title.
That left the door open for Burns and Edwards to throw their hat in the ring for an opportunity against ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, something Burns was eventually granted.
The discussions got people talking about Leon Edwards though and whether he is even a credible challenger for the belt.
His last defeat came against Kamaru Usman, way back in December 2015. Since then, ‘Rocky’ has won 8 fights in a row including wins against Gunnar Nelson, Donald Cerrone and Rafael Dos Anjos. He’s dominate all of those 8 fights, arguably not even losing a round despite the split decision verdict in the Gunnar Nelson fight. So how has he not received a title shot yet?
One reason that most will say is that he is not the most entertaining. In this current 8-fight win streak, Edwards has 1 submission win, 6 decision wins and 1 win by KO (which came at 4:59 of the final round). Dana White has always stated he is one to value entertainment value over pure results, which is also one of the reasons Jose Aldo will fight Petr Yan for the vacant Bantamweight title at UFC 251 despite losing his only fight in the division.
Another could be that he’s already fought the champion and lost. While the fight with Usman was almost five years ago, neither fighter has slowed down. They’ve both improved at a similar rate, with Usman still a bigger, stronger wrestler with a crisper striking game. It means that many people likely wouldn’t tune in to watch a fight with two wrestlers, where one is deemed significantly better than the other already.
It seems as though ‘Rocky’ will likely now need to fight again and make his claim for the next title shot undeniable. A fight with Jorge Masvidal would certainly interest fans considering their history, although it’s questionable how desirable that fight is to ‘Gamebred’. The option for Edwards could be to fight Colby Covington, who has publicly called out Tyron Woodley for fights recently, although Woodley claimed he wasn’t serious about his public claims.
Regardless of Edwards’ next move, talk of him being overrated is nonsense. He has put in the ground work in a super tough division and beaten some top quality opponents. Whether he’s good enough to be the champion in this generation is up for debate but fans that pay attention know that ‘Rocky’ is the real deal.