SALT LAKE CITY – Leon Edwards managed to fire the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport at UFC 278, despite feeling like he was having a bad night.
Edwards (19-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) claimed the welterweight championship from Kamaru Usman on Saturday with a shocking knockout from behind in the fifth round of their headlining bout at Vivint Arena.
After starting the fight strong and winning the opening round, Usman (20-2 MMA, 15-1 UFC) picked up the pace and managed to make the middle three rounds on the scorecards. He also did well in the final frame, until Edwards had just 56 seconds left in the fight, when Edwards unleashed the perfect blow that forced the belt to change hands.
“When I got into it, I knew it was going to be a tough fight,” Edwards told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the UFC 278 press conference after the fight. “I’ve been saying it all week. But I believe I was the better man – but even though it was one of my worst performances, it is what it is, I have a clean finish. … My body just didn’t react the way it did was meant to respond. I don’t know if it was the height or not, but when I saw the other guys fighting on TV backstage, everyone got tired and gassed. I was like, ‘Why is everyone getting tired?’ When I went out after the first lap I felt it, my body just didn’t respond.
“It wasn’t a cardio problem, it was like my body wasn’t responding. But I stayed focused, my coaches pushed me and kept reminding me, ‘You’re still fighting, you’re the best and fight to the end.’ That combination I was drilling with my coaches, that left cross-head kick, and it landed perfectly.”
After losing a unanimous decision to Usman at UFC on FOX 17 in December 2015, Edwards said ahead of UFC 278 that he expected to tie the score with his rival to set up a trilogy fight.
After scoring a clean knockout, Edwards’ stance on the situation hasn’t changed. Usman, who came into battle with the second longest winning streak in UFC history and five consecutive title defenses, has a strong claim to an immediate trilogy bout.
Edwards said he would like that fight to take place in his native England, and after being dissatisfied with his body of work at UFC 278, he thinks he can make a more complete effort.
It was a long journey for “Rocky” to reach the top of the mountain, and after watching Usman fall as he did, he says he won’t take his moment of glory for granted.
“I knew we got into it later that we would most likely get a rematch,” said Edwards. “Whether it’s next or next time, we’re going to have a rematch. He’s been a champion for a long time, they say he’s the best all week. He said he was the best per pound. He believed it, and like i said in the octagon the belt is nobody’s it’s not mine or nobody’s a man’s supposed to hold the belt that long and i said all week i felt this was my moment That’s how it was meant to play out. All the layoffs, all of the COVID, that’s how it was meant to be played.”
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