More than ever, the UFC’s divisional structure seems to have become a series of holding patterns. Fighters battle their way up the long and treacherous path into the elite of their weight class, and then hunker down and wait until just the right opportunity arises. For Leon Edwards that’s put more than a year between him and his last trip to the Octagon.
‘Rocky’ is currently sitting on an eight fight win streak, with victories over the likes of Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Originally scheduled for a bout with Tyron Woodley back in March – right as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of several UFC cards – Edwards hasn’t made the walk to the cage since beating RDA last July at UFC on ESPN 4.
It’s not for a lack of booking opportunities, however. Just, seemingly, not the kind of opportunities Edwards has been looking for. Wins that would put him at the top of the title contenders list.
In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, the Team Renegade athlete responded to a pair of recent call-outs. One from former title challenger Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, and another from current fast-rising prospect Khamzat Chimaev. Edwards detailed his reasons for not being interested in either of them.
“I’ve done all the Wonderboy fights,” Edwards explained, adding that he was only looking to fight someone in the “top-four,” since he doesn’t believe the UFC would offer him a title shot off a win over Thompson. “I’ve been there, done it. I’m on an eight-fight win streak now. I don’t need to go fight someone like Wonderboy. He does nothing for my career.
“He’s coming down, I’m going up. If he gets one or two more wins, then I’ll consider it.”
As for Chimaev? The Chechen Wolf may be the hottest new prospect in the UFC, but without a more robust resume to his name, nothing about a facing the newcomer seems to interest Edwards. At least not at the moment.
“He has to at least beat somebody in the top-f-cking-25 before you go straight to f-cking fight No. 3,” Edwards said with a laugh. “At least fight somebody in the top-25 or -30 first.
“Then we can go and start talking from there, but the MMA community is literally if you feed them anything, they’ll buy into it. It is what it is.”
Whether or not Edwards’ willingness to holdout works for him in the long run remains to be seen. The fighters ranked alongside him in the top four are Jorge Masvidal, Gilbert Burns, Colby Covington, and champion Kamaru Usman.
Recent reports have Usman vs. Burns targeted for UFC 256, in December. And Dana White recently went on the record suggesting that the UFC would be looking to book Covington vs. Masvidal sometime in the coming months. If Edwards is going to be the odd man out, then that fight with #5 ranked Stephen Thompson just might look a lot more enticing.