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UFC London: Leon Edwards wants a KO win, then a Top 10 fight in Vegas

Birmingham welterweight wants to make a major statement at UFC London



Birmingham welterweight Leon Edwards prefers to let his performances inside the octagon do the talking, but he says he’s ready to make some noise at UFC London next month.
Edwards, who is riding a four-fight win streak in the UFC’s ultra-competitive welterweight division, faces Polish-German veteran Peter Sobotta at The O2 Arena on Saturday, 17 March.
And the Brit says he plans on delivering a statement performance to stake a claim to fight the division’s best later this year.
Many believe Edwards’ form warranted a shot against Top 15-level opposition in London, but instead the Brit was matched against Sobotta, who is a seasoned campaigner, but not ranked inside the UFC’s Top 15 at 170lbs.
“I was surprised to be given a bout against Peter,” Edwards told me ahead of his bout next week.
“I’m on a four-fight winning streak so I thought I’d get at least a Top 15 guy. But everyone else I called out was either matched up or injured.
“Peter’s stepped up and accepted the fight. It is what it is. I’ll put him away and then I’ll be on a five-fight win streak then.”
Sobotta offers gritty opposition, having fought in the UFC eight times across two stints with the organisation. But Edwards believes he’s already fought – and beaten – superior opponents in his UFC career.
“I think I’ve fought way tougher opponents than Peter,” said the Brit.
“I think he’ll try to push the grappling exchanges in this fight. But I can see myself putting him away.
“To be fair, I need to be putting him away to campaign for a Top 10 spot. So my aim is to finish this fight, then crack on.”
In a sport where often we see the more outspoken athletes featuring towards the top of fight cards, Edwards prefers not to make a lot of noise. But don’t mistake his understated nature for a lack of confidence.
The Birmingham native is supremely confident in his abilities, and his performances inside the octagon have borne that out, as he’s improved with each display as he’s risen up the ranks of the UFC welterweight division.
That’s down in no small part to his regular training base at UTC in Birmingham. Edwards says he bases all his training camps on home soil as all the expertise he needs is right on his doorstep.
“My last three camps I’ve done in my home city of Birmingham, at UTC,” he said.
“After fights I go to AKA (American Kickboxing Academy, in San Jose) and I get some work in over there. But for training camps I do it all here.
“I have everything I need here. I have my training partners, my conditioning coaches – everything I need is here. I’ve got some great training partners – I’ve got my brother (Fabian), and I’ve got Tom (Breese), and it’s working out well so far.
Edwards is happy to be fighting on home soil on 17 March, but says he’ll be calling not only for Top 10 opposition after this fight, he’ll also be calling for a spot on a US-based pay-per view event.
“I’ve actually chosen to fight in Europe for my last three fights because it works out better,” he said.
“I’ve fought in London before – this is my second time fighting at The O2. It’s only a two-hour drive for me, so all I have to do is get up, drive down there and fight, so it works out way easier for me.
“But after this fight I’ll be pushing to go to America to fight one of the Top 10 guys in America. So after this fight, I’ll be fighting in America.”
And Edwards promises he’ll be pursuing the finish on 17 March, knowing that nothing less than an emphatic victory will give him the chance to call his shot and get a ranked opponent in the US.
“I need to put him away,” he admitted.
“I want a knockout this fight. Then I’ll be on a five-fight win streak, with two finishes, then I can campaign in the cage for a Top 10 guy. If I go out there and get a decision I don’t think that’ll be enough to campaign for that. So I’ll be going for the finish, I’ll put him away, then I’ll crack on towards the Top 10.”
And Edwards has already earmarked the perfect event for his Las Vegas debut, the UFC 226 card on 7 July, which takes place during UFC International Fight Week.
“Get me in Vegas on a pay-per-view!” he smiled.
“I’m going to push for a spot on that Miocic vs Cormier card in Vegas in July. I’d love to be on that card. I’ll be pushing for that after this fight and hopefully I’ll get the chance to fight in Vegas this summer.”

“Fair play to Till”

While Edwards has quietly been rising up the welterweight ranks, fellow British welterweight Darren Till has burst onto the scene and leapfrogged a host of talented fighters, thanks to his stunning first-round finish of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in Gdansk, Poland last year.
Edwards says he doesn’t resent Till’s meteoric rise, but maintains his own CV is the stronger of the two.
“I say fair play to Darren,” he said.
“He came out and he started talking and he got the fight (against Cerrone). I’ve fought way better opponents than he’s fought, other than Cerrone. Everyone else, I haven’t got a clue who they are.
“Fair play to him, but for me, I go out there and make my fights do the talking. They can’t deny me. I’ll be on a five-fight win streak after this fight, so they can’t deny that I deserve a Top 10 fight.”

Look out for little brother

Leon Edwards may be building his reputation in the UFC’s welterweight division, but there’s another Edwards brother who’s ready to make a name of his own.
Leon’s younger brother Fabian is a rising star of the domestic MMA scene, and is quickly rising up the ranks of the BAMMA middleweight division. He’s currently 3-0, with all three wins coming inside the distance, and he has an amateur career featuring a string of first-round knockouts.
Leon says it’s only a matter of time before Fabian joins him in the UFC.
“I’m hoping by next summer he should be in the UFC with me,” he said.
“I can’t see anyone in middleweight in BAMMA beating him, so hopefully by this time next year he’ll be there with me.”

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK national media. News Editor: ONE Championship. UFC/MMA Reporter: BBC Three. Contrib: MMAjunkie.