- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
UFC welterweight contender Leon Edwards says he wasn’t surprised by Jorge Masvidal’s recent withdrawal from their scheduled fight at UFC 269 next month, and he has now turned his entire focus to a title fight against Kamaru Usman in 2022.
Edwards, of England, told ESPN he’d heard some concerning things about Masvidal’s camp prior to his withdrawal and he doesn’t believe Masvidal ever wanted the fight at all.
“I knew he was going to,” Edwards said. “I heard some news coming back that he was looking a bit fat, he was looking chubby still. I didn’t think he was training for it to be honest. I always knew he was going to run away. It’s been three years since the incident in London and he’s been dodging me ever since.”
UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN last week that Masvidal withdrew from the bout with an undisclosed injury. The former two-time welterweight title challenger has not commented on the injury publicly.
Edwards (19-3) said he’s inquired about Masvidal’s condition, but hasn’t received any additional details.
“I believe he’s a fraud and he’s doing what he needs to get out of the fight,” Edwards said. “He knows that once he loses to me, where does he go?”
There’s been a high level of interest in a matchup between Edwards and Masvidal (35-15) ever since a backstage scuffle in 2019 in London. Masvidal approached Edwards after they each won their respective bouts at a UFC Fight Night and hit him with a “three-piece and a soda” combination that immediately went viral.
Edwards said he doesn’t envision a scenario in which a fight makes sense in the future, and added he believes Masvidal, 37, will retire from the sport in 2022.
The UFC has not announced any future plans for Edwards or its defending welterweight champion in Usman, but Edwards said he believes he has the support of the promotion to vie for the title next. Edwards fought Usman once already back in 2015 and lost via unanimous decision. He has not lost since.
“I feel [the UFC] sees it,” Edwards said. “They now believe I am well-deserving. There is no one else for Usman to fight. I’m the guy saying ‘yes’ all the time. I’m the guy fighting. I feel the promotion and I am on the same page, let’s say that.”
Usman (20-1) is coming off his fifth title defense in a span of less than three years. He has finished three of his last five wins by knockout, but Edwards believes fans will see a different version of Usman when they meet again.
“Usman definitely fell in love with his hands,” Edwards said. “He definitely believes in them. He’s calling out [boxing world champion Canelo Alvarez]. He truly believes that he’s some sick striker. Fair play to him, but I know when we fight, he’ll be shooting for his takedowns. I don’t think it will be a striking match. I think it will be more wrestler versus striker. I’m looking forward to it.”
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