Leon Edwards is feeling confident ahead of his trilogy bout with Kamaru Usman.
At UFC 278, Edwards pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history, knocking out Usman with a last-minute head kick to claim the welterweight title. With Usman winning their initial fight back in 2015, that set up the trilogy bout, which will headline UFC 286 in March. And with the way things went last time, Edwards believes fans will be hearing “And still!” come fight night.
“I know he’s good. I’m not deluded. I know he’s a good fighter, but I truly believe that I am better,” Edwards said on The MMA Hour. “I’m taking the confidence from knowing I can take him down, knowing when it hits the mat and I’m on top, I’m way better, knowing I can knock him out. I can take all the added confidence that I had anyway into the next fight.”
Oddsmakers disagree with Edwards, with Usman currently installed as a -245 favorite, implying a 71 percent win probability. But “Rocky” notes he has several advantages coming into the trilogy bout. For one, UFC 286 takes place in London, giving him the hometown advantage. Also, along with the confidence he gained from the knockout, there’s a question of if that knockout loss, the first of Usman’s career, will change him.
“It’s an hour away from my house,” Edwards said. “I don’t have to travel. It’s an easy drive. I can go down on a Tuesday. I don’t have to leave two, three weeks early. I can actually finish my camp in Birmingham and go to London with my team.
“As far as the knockout goes, let’s see how he reacts. I’m not really banking on him being gun-shy. I’m going out there to prepare for the Usman there is. We’ll see. I’ve said it time and time again, that devastating knockout does change fighters. I’ve seen it in boxing, I’ve seen it in mixed martial arts, let’s see how he reacts when I starting sinking them shots towards his head. It’s going to be good.
“One more point, I’ve never lost in the U.K., amateur or pro. I’ve never lost a fight in the U.K. For Usman to come to the U.K., my headline show, in London, for the belt, I just can’t see how he gets it done. I’m excited for it. I can’t wait.”
Plus, there’s the matter of altitude. UFC 278 took place in Salt Lake City, where the altitude dramatically affected a number of fights on the card, including, Edwards says, theirs. The welterweight champion maintains that Usman’s success in the rematch, before getting knocked out, was in part due to the high altitude playing havoc with him.
“That was about 40 percent, 50 percent of what I am,” Edwards said. “He was fine, but I remember thinking in my head, ‘This guy isn’t even that good!’ My body just wasn’t working for some reason. Even as he was hitting me, wailing on my guard, in my head I’m thinking, ‘This motherf***** isn’t that good.’ I just couldn’t get my body to work. It wasn’t working for some reason. I could think in my head what I wanted to do, but my body wasn’t reacting.
“It was a weird feeling that I’ve never felt before. If he approaches like that, it’s going to be a bad night for him. But I’m prepared for the best Usman there is. It’s been a long road to get to this position, I can’t get here and then give it away like that. I have to show these motherf******. It’s going to be good.”
UFC 286 takes place on March 18 at the O2 Arena in London.