Leon Edwards (born 25 August 1991) is an English professional mixed martial artist. He currently competes in the Welterweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he is the current UFC Welterweight Champion. A professional competitor since 2011, Edwards formerly competed for BAMMA, where he was the BAMMA Welterweight Champion. As of March 7, 2023, he is #4 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings.
Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and lived with his parents and his brother in a one-room house. Growing up, he was surrounded by crime, and his father was involved in what he describes as "questionable activities". Edwards moved to the Aston area of Birmingham, England at age nine, and his father was shot and killed in a nightclub in London when Edwards was thirteen. He was then involved in criminal activity such as drug dealing, street fighting, and knife possession along with his social circle, but was able to get out of his lifestyle at age 17, when his mother got him to join an MMA club.
Edwards began his professional fighting career in 2010, making his debut as an amateur at Bushido Challenge 2 - A New Dawn. Edwards fought Carl Booth, winning via Armbar submission in round two.
Edwards then signed a contract with Fight UK MMA. He debuted for the promotion against Damian Zlotnicki, winning via technical knockout in the first round. He had two more fights for the promotion, winning against Pawel Zwiefka and losing against Delroy McDowell via DQ by way of an illegal knee.
Edwards obtained a 2–1 record after leaving Fight UK MMA. He then fought Craig White at the Strength and Honor 14, winning by decision. Edwards then went to fight for "BAMMA", in which he went 5–0. During his stint with BAMMA, he won the welterweight championship against Wayne Murrie and he defended it once against Shaun Taylor in what was his last fight with BAMMA before going to the UFC.
Edwards made his promotional debut against Cláudio Silva on 8 November 2014 at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Saint Preux. He was defeated via split decision.
Edwards faced veteran Seth Baczynski on 11 April 2015 at UFC Fight Night 64. Edwards won the fight via KO at 0:08 of the first round. This result earned him a Performance of the Night bonus and marked one of the sixth fastest knockouts in the organization.
Edwards faced Pawel Pawlak on 18 July 2015 at UFC Fight Night 72. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Edwards next faced eventual UFC champion Kamaru Usman on 19 December 2015 at UFC on Fox 17. He lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Edwards faced Dominic Waters on 8 May 2016 at UFC Fight Night 87. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Edwards next faced Albert Tumenov on 8 October 2016 at UFC 204. He won the fight via submission in the third round.
Edwards faced Vicente Luque on 18 March 2017 at UFC Fight Night 107. He won the fight by unanimous decision.
Edwards faced Bryan Barberena on 2 September 2017 at UFC Fight Night 115. He won the fight by unanimous decision.
Edwards faced Peter Sobotta on 17 March 2018 at UFC Fight Night 127. He won the fight via TKO at 4:59 in the third round.
Edwards faced Donald Cerrone on 23 June 2018 at UFC Fight Night 132. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Edwards faced Gunnar Nelson on 16 March 2019 at UFC Fight Night 147. He won the bout by split decision. After the event, Edwards was punched backstage by Jorge Masvidal, which left Edwards with a laceration under his left eye.
Edwards faced former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on 20 July 2019 in the main event of UFC on ESPN 4. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
As the first bout of his new, multi-fight contract, Edwards was scheduled to face Tyron Woodley on 21 March 2020 at UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards. However, the restrictions related to COVID-19 forced Edwards to withdraw as the event was meant to be moved from London to the United States, and the event was subsequently cancelled.
After a 425-day hiatus since his bout with Dos Anjos, the UFC had removed Edwards from the UFC rankings due to inactivity on 22 October 2020. However, one day later, it was announced that he had been scheduled to face undefeated prospect Khamzat Chimaev in the main event of UFC Fight Night 183 on 19 December 2020. This involved Edwards being back to the #3 spot in the UFC rankings. On 29 November, it was announced that Chimaev had allegedly tested positive for COVID-19, which meant the bout was declared on jeopardy. On 1 December, Edwards officially tested positive for COVID-19 and allegedly lost twelve pounds due to the severity of his case, so the bout was subsequently postponed. On 22 December, it was announced that the contest has been rescheduled for 20 January 2021, at UFC Fight Night 185. In turn, Chimaev pulled out of the contest on 29 December due to lingering effects of his own COVID-19 struggle. As a result, the bout was temporarily cancelled. On 13 January, the bout was scheduled for the third time, and was scheduled to headline UFC Fight Night 187 on 13 March 2021. However, on 11 February, UFC president Dana White announced the fight was once again cancelled due to Chimaev suffering from lingering effects of COVID-19. On February 18, it was announced that Belal Muhammad would be the replacement opponent for Edwards. During the beginning of the second round, Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye rendering him unable to continue. The fight was declared a no contest, snapping his 8-fight win streak.
Edwards was expected to face Nate Diaz on 15 May 2021 at UFC 262, marking the first time a non-main event and non-title bout had been scheduled for 5 rounds in UFC history. However, the bout was moved to UFC 263 due to a minor injury sustained by Diaz. Edwards controlled a vast majority of the bout, but was stunned badly with punches late in the fifth. Edwards won the fight by unanimous decision (49–46, 49–46, 49–46).
Edwards was scheduled to face Jorge Masvidal on 11 December 2021 at UFC 269. However, Masvidal withdrew due to injury and the bout was scrapped.
Edwards rematched Kamaru Usman on 20 August 2022 at UFC 278 for the UFC Welterweight Championship. After having a successful first round and struggling for the next four, Edwards won the fight and title via knockout in the fifth round, claiming the UFC Welterweight Championship. The win earned him the Performance of the Night award. This victory is considered by many to be one of the best knockouts of all-time, as well as one of the best comebacks to ever be pulled off in combat sports history.
A third fight between Edwards and Usman took place on March 18, 2023, at UFC 286. With a point deduction in the third round due to grabbing the fence to prevent a takedown, he won the bout via majority decision. Aside from the fence grab, Edwards was commended for showing significant improvement from the second meeting with Usman, defending 11 of Usman's 15 takedown attempts and out-striking Usman on the feet for most of the fight.
Edwards is scheduled to defend the UFC Welterweight Championship title against Colby Covington on December 16, 2023, at UFC 296.
Leon grew up in Aston, Birmingham, England but is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. He started training mixed martial arts when he was 17. His nickname, Rocky, was given to him by his friends in school. His brother, Fabian, is also a mixed martial artist for Bellator MMA.
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