UFC 286 - Leon Edwards on the pressure of defending his title against Kamaru Usman
Yahoo Sports MMA insider Kevin Iole spoke one-on-one with the UFC welterweight champion as he prepares for UFC 286 on Saturday in London, his third fight against Kamaru Usman.
KEVIN IOLE: What is up, everybody? I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. My privilege right now to be joined by the UFC welterweight champion of the world, Leon Edwards. Leon won the title from Kamaru Usman in August at UFC 278 with one of the greatest knockouts you will see in UFC history. On Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, he is back to defend the title against Kamaru Usman. Leon, welcome. Thank you for your time.
LEON EDWARDS: Thanks for having me. How are you?
KEVIN IOLE: I'm doing great. So let's start with this-- how different is this fight camp compared to the last one when you go in as the defending champion relative to being the challenger and trying to take the title from somebody?
LEON EDWARDS: Well, I think you work twice as hard, right? You know the fruits of the labor, you know how much the bout means, so you want to work hard to keep it, right? So I believe that I've worked twice as hard. I believe I'm going into my prime now, and my body's finally in the right space. So it's going to be a fantastic evening.
KEVIN IOLE: Does it put a little extra pressure on you doing the first one at home, right? Because I know you've got an unbelievable crowd there. They love combat sports, right? The expectations are high. What does that do to you?
LEON EDWARDS: For me, it can only spur me on, right? I've never lost in the UK, amateur or pro. So I enjoy fighting at home. I enjoy being around my friends and my family all week, then going out there and compete. I think, for me, it helps me and motivates me more to want to put on a show and want to perform. So yeah, I think it's going to be a fantastic evening.
KEVIN IOLE: You had a great first round against him, and then he, obviously, kind of takes control of the fight and seems like he's going to win this fight. And I wonder, do you feel like now-- the narrative is can he overcome it? Mentally can he overcome the loss? But I wonder if the narrative should be can Leon actually be better than he was last time given the fact that, hey, maybe you did it, you proved it to yourself, and your confidence may be better?
LEON EDWARDS: Yeah, for sure. I think me overcoming it is easy, right? There's technical issues that I could easily fixed in training camp and what I've fixed already. Now we're not fighting at altitude. Now we're fighting in the UK where I live. This is not altitude stuff, and that played a massive part in my performance that night. And it won't play a factor in the performance Saturday night. So yeah, it's going to be a good evening, and like I said, I'm looking forward to it, and I can't wait.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you this-- everybody knew you were a great striker going into that fight. You had proved that long ago, and then you prove it by knocking him out. But you did something nobody else in the UFC has done. You took him down. And I wonder as he kind of gets ready for this rematch, do you feel like that might be in his head? And even though you're not known as a wrestler, that's a threat that maybe you have that people don't think about that is in his head?
LEON EDWARDS: Yeah, 100%. I feel both. Once hitting the mat, and I'm on top, that I am way better than him at jiu-jitsu and the ground game. With Kamaru, if he takes you down, [INAUDIBLE], you can get back up. In all his fights, anyone he takes down, they all the back to their feet, right? When I take him down, he's not getting back to his feet. And that's it. So I think that's definitely a threat there that I can utilize in this fight, and I will utilize in this fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you feel like if you win the fight that now you're going to be freer after this because this whole Usman thing will be behind you? It won't be some fluke knockout in the late second, and now you'll be better fighter going forward if you're able to get past this one?
LEON EDWARDS: Yeah, 100%. After beating him Saturday night I think it opens the doors up for and more different fights, different options. And after this fight, we're going to have a look at the division, see where we'll go next. But yeah, I think going out there, prove it to the world that I am the best in the world is number one, and then after that we go on and look to see what's next.