After 602 days away from UFC competition, welterweight contender Leon Edwards wants a chance to win UFC welterweight gold despite his No Contest against Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 21.

Edwards put paid to any notions of cage rust with a strong first round against the in-form Muhammad on Saturday night, rocking “Remember The Name” with a big head kick in the fight’s first five minutes.

However, their contest was abruptly halted after Edwards accidentally caught the Chicago native with an eye poke early in the second round.

Understandably, Edwards was disappointed at how things played out on Saturday night.

“Heartbreaking. Devastating,” were Edwards’ words in the post-fight press conference after being asked how it felt for his first fight since June 2019 to end that way. “It’s been a long, long road to come back. To come back to that is upsetting to say the least.

“I wish Belal nothing but a full recovery. It was an accident – I didn’t mean it – but I wish him a full recovery,” he added.

Questions quickly moved to what is next for Edwards, a fighter many have wanted to see back in action as the welterweight division continues to heat up.

Muhammad, who was hoping taking Edwards as a short-notice opponent and subsequent victory could send him up the UFC rankings, will be disappointed to hear that the Birmingham, England welterweight has his sights firmly set on a chance at winning championship gold instead of a rematch.

“I believe a title shot should be next,” Edwards said. “I’ve rebuilt myself back up since I last competed against [Kamaru] Usman. Went on an eight-fight winning streak and Belal was going to be nine.

“The writing was on the wall, you know, I was winning the fight clearly. I believe I should be next for the title shot. Like I said, I’ve rebuilt myself back up and I feel I should be next.”

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman looks set to defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal for a second time next. However, no official confirmation of that bout has come from the UFC as yet, let alone a fight date.