Leon Edwards was in light-hearted mood ahead of his UFC 286 main event clash with Kamaru Usman, and promised to help the former UFC welterweight champion edge closer to retirement by handing him his second straight defeat.
Edwards and Usman will meet in the main event at The O2 Arena on Saturday, March 18, with the pair set to throw down in a trilogy fight for the UFC welterweight title. And, despite coming in as the champion to defend his title on home soil, the Englishman seemed completely free of stress and pressure as he joked with reporters during media day.
After spitting his drinking water after being asked if Usman would show up “looking like Terry Crews again,” Edwards said that he thinks the former champ might not be too far away from calling it a career.
“Our mentalities are in two different places,” he said.
“I feel like he’s on his way out, and I am going to open the door for him (and) give him another path to follow his fashion dreams and follow wherever he wants to go.
“I think he’s already got one – something’s out the door and I am going to add to that. Whether he retires after or not, it’s up to him.”
Usman looked set to win their UFC 278 bout on the scorecards as the bout headed into the final minute of the last round. But a perfectly-timed head kick from Edwards knocked Usman cold and crowned the Birmingham man world champion.
Usman has repeatedly pointed to his superiority through much of that bout as proof that he’s the better fighter. But Edwards laughed off that suggestion, and highlighted the crucial moment that ensured victory that night.
“I know Kamaru, he’s using that as, ‘Oh yeah, he was tired in the fight.’” he said.
”Whether I was tired or not, you got knocked out, and that’s it. So, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
“Even though I was tired, he couldn’t hurt me. I wasn’t hurt. It was more of a fatigue issue. He was whaling at my gloves and I was catching it all on my gloves. Even on my worst day, I defeated him. He’s improved from when we’ve first fought, but so have I.”
Edwards’ win over Usman meant he became only the second fighter from the UK to capture a UFC title, and instantly made him a folk hero back home in his native Birmingham, where young fans repeatedly come up to him and parrot his now-infamous post-fight phrase, “Pound-for-pound! Head shot! Dead!”
When asked how often it happened, Edwards grinned, “Loads! I’ve lost count you know? That’s the saying of the year! ‘Pound-for-pound! Head shot! Dead!’
“I didn’t plan it. It was more like emotions. That’s basically what it was. He was pound-for-pound. He got a head shot, and he was out!”