Leon Edwards is a British-Jamaican professional mixed martial artist, and currently holds the UFC Welterweight World Championship. A professional competitor since 2011, Edwards formerly competed for BAMMA, where he was the BAMMA Welterweight Champion.
After a unanimous decision loss to Kamaru Usman in December 2015, Edwards began moving up the welterweight rankings, earning victories over Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Rafael dos Anjos before being scheduled to face Tyron Woodley at the O2 Arena in London in March 2020. However, with restrictions related to COVID-19, the event was cancelled. After a 425-day hiatus since his bout with dos Anjos, Edwards was removed from the UFC rankings due to inactivity. Soon after Edwards was matched-up against undefeated Khamzat Chimaev in the main event of UFC Fight Night 183 in December 2020, and was reinstated as the #3 welterweight in the world. Chimaev and Edwards both tested posted for COVID-19 and the bout was cancelled.
After attempts to rebook the fight, the UFC decided to book Edwards against Belal Muhammed as a replacement for Chimaev, who was suffering from lingering effects of COVID-19. After a strong first round, Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye rendering him unable to continue. The fight was declared a no contest.
Determined to keep active, Edwards was booked to face Nate Diaz at UFC 263 in the first-ever non-title non-main event fight scheduled for five rounds in UFC history. Edwards controlled the fight from the start and eased to a unanimous points decision. This set-up an eagerly anticipated matchup against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 269. However, Masvidal withdrew from the contest and the bout was scrapped.
“I think those years looking back were blessings in disguise. It gave me time to hone my skills and polish what I needed to polish. Usman's competed, but he's also been in wars. His body is breaking down, and I think now is the perfect time."
Although disappointed after the fallout of the Masvidal fight, Edwards’ dominant five-round masterclass against Diaz was enough for the UFC to award Edwards his long-awaited world title shot against then pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman - seven years after their first bout.
On August 22nd, 2022, Edwards stepped into the cage on his quest to capture UFC gold. After a successful first round which saw Edwards take Usman down for the first time in his career, Edwards struggled to gain any momentum in the following three rounds. Heading into the fifth round, Edwards was down 3-1 on all scorecards and knew a finish was the only way he would capture the world title. In dramatic fashion, Edwards won the world title with a head kick knockout with seconds left in the fight. The victory is considered by many to be one of the best knockouts of all-time, as well as one of the best comebacks in combat sports history. This victory also saw Edwards become the first Black British champion, second UK world champion in the UFC’s history, and the first Jamaica-born champion, too.
"It means the world to me - and I'm also the first Jamaican-born champion, that means a lot to me as well. Those two titles alone are history.”
A third fight between Edwards and Usman was booked for UFC 286 in London. With a point deduction in the third round, Edwards won the fight via majority decision. Aside from the point deduction, Edwards was commended for his vast improvement from the second meeting with Usman, with Edwards defending 11 of Usman’s 15 takedown attempts, and out striking Usman on the feet for most of the bout.
At the end of 2023, Edwards defended his title for the second time in Las Vegas against American Colby Covington at UFC 296. In a bout that was surrounded by controversy after comments by Covington in the pre-fight press conference, Edwards showed off his superiority in the striking exchanges, and at times, even out-grappled Covington. The champion was able to switch stances and pick Covington off at will, while denying most the American’s sporadic takedown attempts.
Since winning the world title in 2022, Edwards has used his newfound platform to inspire and influence the next generation of MMA fighters coming out of Britain and the nation of his birth. Edwards' rise to becoming UFC champion began when he started mixed martial arts at the age of 17, but up until that point had endured a tough upbringing, first in Kingston and then after moving to the UK to live in Birmingham at the age of nine. He wants to help more young people transform their lives and has been working with the UFC as part of a youth mentoring project.
"Now I want to use my platform to help and to motivate other people and to show that they can achieve stuff from coming from underprivileged backgrounds.”
Edwards has not forgotten his tough journey to the top of the UFC ladder and has no intention of ever doing so. More importantly though, he hopes he can inspire others to make positive changes.