Leon Edwards didn’t mind the boos as his hand was raised in the victory against Nate Diaz at UFC 263
Leon Edwards is still unbeaten since a loss to current UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman in 2015. And while he hasn’t tasted defeat in the Octagon in over five years and has continued to work his way up the ranks, he hasn’t seemed to earn as many points in the fans’ minds.
And he doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.
Edwards’ role as a “heel” stretches back, at a minimum, to 2019, when he bested Gunnar Nelson in a split decision in London. Following that event, he got into an infamously broadcasted altercation with Jorge Masvidal, who delivered a “three-piece with the soda” to Edwards.
He’d go on to call out Masvidal and Usman unsuccessfully over the rest of 2019 and 2020 but got the big fight feel he’s wanted at UFC 263, which, despite a last-minute scare from Diaz, saw Edwards score a one-sided decision over Nate Diaz in the first-ever five-round bout that was neither a main event or title fight.
After defeating Nate Diaz at UFC 263, Leon Edwards talks about having to play the heel role
At the post-fight press conference following his win, Edwards mentioned that being jeered in arenas around the world — and he certainly was against the fan-favorite Diaz — gives him no issues.
“I embrace it. It doesn’t bother me,” Edwards said. “I grew up around hostility. I grew up around bad environments. If I have a crowd booing me, as long as I’m going out and getting paid money, it’s like, it is what it is. I go out there and do my job; it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been booed in the UK…I was like ‘What the f***?’ So it is what it is. I embrace it. I’m on my journey and I’ll keep doing my thing.”
The win over Diaz makes Edwards 9-0, 1 NC in his last 10 fights, with wins also coming against Vicente Luque, Bryan Barberena, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos.
It also represents the end of a frustrating, inactive period for Edward since his July 2019 win over dos Anjos. He was scheduled to fight Tyron Woodley in March 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic scrapped any plans for MMA.
He was then booked thrice against Khamzat Chimaev, only for COVID-19 to scrap each of the fights. He instead fought Belal Muhammad in March, a fight that went to a no-contest due to an accidental eye poke.
“It’s been a long year-and-a-half to two years. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve been in camp since last March, when I was meant to fight Woodley. I’ve been in back-to-back training camps. Lots of ups-and-downs, lost friends, lost people and it’s been a stressful road.”
With his win streak, and his last loss coming against the current champ, it’s a fair argument that Edwards should be in line for a title shot. UFC President Dana White, however, stated in his address to the media that Colby Covington is still next in line.
Usman himself also offered a response on Twitter, stating that he wasn’t impressed with Edwards’s performance enough to defend the title against him.
“Guys are always making excuses,” Edwards said in response. “They know I’m the real deal. They know I’m the man for the title shot. They’re all b****ing and making excuses and say ‘He doesn’t deserve it.’ Then who f***ing does?
“Colby don’t deserve it. Woodley got injured and now he deserves a title shot? I didn’t b*** and moan. I took my loss. on the chin. I worked my way back up to a nine-fight win streak. Who else f***ing deserves it?”