Leon Edwards explains why he can avenge defeat by UFC champion Kamaru Usman
Leon Edwards believes a rematch with UFC champion Kamaru Usman would be 'totally different' to their first fight over half a decade ago.
British welterweight contender Edwards is likely the next contender to Usman's strap assuming he can live up to his favourite tag against Nate Diaz next month at UFC 263.
And despite losing a relatively one-sided decision to the current champion when they fought in 2015, he says that he can capture the gold if they fight again.
Speaking with Mirror Fighting as part of the launch of his 'UFC – OnSide Youth Mentoring Program' to help troubled youth in the UK, Edwards talked about the differences in both men's games since that initial meeting.
"Everything is different now," he replied when asked what had changed in the intervening six years. "When I fought Usman I was 23, young, learning my way and just getting to the UFC.
"I am now a veteran of the UFC, I've fought many different styles and I just feel like I am a totally different person from the one I was back then."
After losing to Usman, his third and to date final career defeat, Birmingham native Edwards embarked on an incredible eight-fight winning streak, picking up victories over veterans Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson.
And it appeared that he was on course for a welterweight title shot when after beating former lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos, Edwards was matched up with recently dethroned welterweight king Tyron Woodley at the O2 Arena in London.
But days before the fight was due to take place, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the event, this beginning a torrid period of fight cancellations, that had him only see the inside of an octagon one time after July 2019
In March, he took a late notice fight with Belal Muhammed after three separate fight dates with prospect Khamzat Chimaev fell by the wayside, and the match was ruled a no contest after an eye poke in the second round.
But he believes that a win over big name star Diaz will be enough to catapult him to a UFC title shot, similarly to how it earned Jorge Masvidal a chance at gold.
"I believe I am the number one contender right now," he added. "My body of work has proven that, but after I go out there and beat Nate Diaz in the way I picture I will I can't see where the UFC would go next.
"I will be a world champion by the end of 2021, that's what I see in my head and that's what's going to happen.
"Nate is going to be coming out looking for a war, like he does in all of his fights, and I don't think he's going to look to get me to the ground looking for submissions.
"He's going to pressure me from the get-go like when he fought Pettis, he'll try to put me on my back foot, but I want to come out victorious and I'll meet him in the middle."
The UFC – OnSide Youth Mentoring Program will be led by former UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa, UFC welterweight Leon Edwards, and UFC middleweight Darren Till.
Each athlete will lead a martial arts- focused mentoring program as part of the after-school health and wellness curriculum at three OnSide Youth Zones across the UK.
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