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Sport and Fitness

InterviewUFC star Leon Edwards on training, legacies and beating Kamaru Usman

Words by Nathan Irvine

The UK's hottest MMA prospect talks exclusively to EDGAR.

He might not be making the big headlines right now, but 2020 promises to be a breakout year for Leon “Rocky” Edwards.

The UK MMA prospect has gone about his business, relatively under the radar. Edwards has been on a tear and hasn’t lost a bout in four years. In fact, his last defeat was a narrow loss to current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman.

Since then the Birmingham, UK fighter has climbed back into contention for a shot at the title. And if he beats former UFC champ Tyron Woodley in March, that’s just what he’ll get.

In an exclusive interview with EDGAR, Edwards tells us his training, that walk to the octagon and why he’s not the same fighter that Usman beat in 2015.

 

Leon Edwards sat staring into the middle distance as he focuses before a big fight in the UFC.

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Focusing on his upcoming bout in the locker room.

Q. You’ve been on a winning streak for the last four years, what do you put your current success down to?

A. I really believe in building a support system that you believe in, which is why I’ve gone against the grain and stayed in the UK to train with coaches that have supported me throughout my career. I’ve been advised by many people to move to the US to further my career, but I’ve proved that it’s not the formula for success. The tie between community and progress is something that I value highly. I grew up in Birmingham, UK and I’m stronger because of it. I also believe that success in any field can very much be attributed to hard work, tenacity and the ability to maintain a positive outlook regardless of external circumstances.

Q. What’s next for you in the UFC?

A. My next bout will be on March 21 against former welterweight world champion Tyron Woodley. Whoever wins this fight will be competing for the number one spot, moving on to compete for the world title in the division.

Q. How has your game changed since the close decision loss to current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman?

A. Learning from your past is such a key part of life and that fight is no exception. I have improved in leaps and bounds since competing against Kamaru. My understanding of grappling and MMA has deepened and that’s made a huge difference. When I do get the opportunity to fight again against Kamaru for the title I’ll go in there and do what I do best, which is focus on my game and everything I’ve learnt. I’ve always been confident in my abilities and that’s what will lead me to victory against Kamaru.

Q. Can you describe the feeling of stepping into the Octagon? What does it feel like? What are your first thoughts upon entering?

A. The feeling is surreal. Walking into the octagon with 20,000 people in the arena definitely gets my adrenaline going, but once I’m ready to go I’m completely focused on the job at hand. I think people don’t realise that this is my job and my passion. I live and breathe it. Once I’m in the octagon I’m thinking about the game plan that my coaches and I have been working on for the ten weeks leading up to the fight. It’s imperative that I stay calm and collected throughout the chaos going on around me in the crowd.

Q. Which fighter on the current roster do you most admire and why?

A. Jon Jones. He’s sustained his status as a champion for a long time, and works with what he’s got. I can respect his technique and he uses being the taller fighter in most bouts.

Q. How do you see your career playing out? What goals do you have before you step away from the fight game?

A. My goal is to become a welterweight champion in the UFC. Long term, solidifying a legacy as one of the greatest welterweight fighters of all time is something that I strive for. Giving back to kids of the same background as me through that legacy is something that is close to me. I didn’t grow up privileged. I had to fight for everything I have now. I want to show kids that if they believe in themselves and put in the work they will get the dreams they deserve.

Q. What does a typical day look like in the run up to a bout?

A. I train twice a day, so, for example, on Monday I’ll have wrestling in the morning then kickboxing in the evening. Outside of training, I spend as much time as possible with my family.

Q. How easy or difficult is it to cut weight?

A. I don’t find weight as hard as some fighters. I like to drop my weight slowly in camp over a period of ten weeks and I work with a great nutritionist that helps me out during camp. Nutrition is always key when it comes to keeping the weight off.

Q. What do you find the most challenging about staying in shape – the mental or physical side of things and why?

A. Mental strength is a hard thing to develop and maintain. But it is a muscle – you can develop it and build it. I enjoy all aspects of training, but the challenge is in eating clean day in and day out, and being strict with my diet to ensure maximum performance. I think that’s a challenge for any athlete, to do what you have to do in terms of a living a very restricted lifestyle whilst increasing your workouts and pushing yourself further every day.

Q. What would be your one piece of advice or top tip for those looking to get and stay in shape?

A. Consistency and persistency are the most important factors in any weight loss goals. Because of the culture today, people are too used to instant gratification. Weight loss is about changing your lifestyle and developing short term plans to achieve long term goals.

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Leon Edwards vs. Tyron Woodley is the headline bout of UFC London on March 21

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