Leon Edwards impressively got the job done at UFC 278 with a literal last-minute head kick KO over former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman. It all happened after the strong push from his coaches during the round breaks and being down on the scorecards 3-1.
But like any good story, Edwards’ was filled with drama and plot twists, particularly with his physical condition mid-fight. In his post-fight guest appearance on The MMA Hour this week, “Rocky” revealed some struggles he had early on in the bout, which he attributed to the Salt Lake City elevation.
“In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Why is everyone getting tired?’ I was watching it thinking I won’t get tired because I’ve been here for two weeks, I slept in altitude at home – I probably won’t feel it,” he said.
“So I was watching it backstage, and I was thinking in the back of my head as I was warming up, ‘Shit, why is everyone getting tired?’ When we went out there, after the first round, I can’t explain it, my body just shut down. It was just a weird feeling. It wasn’t cardio, it was like my body just wasn’t reacting. In my head, I could think what I wanted to do, but my body just wasn’t doing it.”’
During one of the round breaks, one of the coaches implored him to “stop feeling sorry” for himself. Edwards went on to explain that particular moment and why he considers it to be one of his “worst performances” despite the biggest win of his career.
“I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling — it’s hard to explain it. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was thinking, ‘There’s no way this is playing out like this.’
“I think he could tell by my face, based on what he said. ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself,’” he said. “Keep trying, mate. You more than deserve to be here. You can beat this guy. You can do it, so just go out there and do it.’ So that’s what I did. …
“That’s one of my worst performances ever in my career. To have my worst performance in the biggest moment of my life, it’s hard to explain how you feel mentally. It’s like what the f–k. Come on. How is this playing out like this.
“It was difficult to go through, but it is what it is,” he added. “That was Usman’s best performance, that was my worst performance, and he still couldn’t finish me. I finished him on my worst day.”
Edwards (now 20-3 with 1 NC) also won a $50K bonus for ‘Performance of the Night’.