TNT Sports Reload - Episode 13Oct 10
Leon Edwards might consider himself one of the unluckiest fighters on the UFC roster after the run he has endured over the past few months.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the 30-year-old has seen six fights cancelled for various reasons, watching the momentum built behind an eight-fight winning streak wither into inconsequence despite his best efforts.
Edwards did finally manage to return to action in March earlier this year only to see the fight ruled a no-contest in the second round after delivering an accidental eye poke that left Belal Muhammad unable to continue.
The Birmingham fighter then put together a dominant display – up until the last knockings of a dramatic fifth round – to defeat fan favourite Nate Diaz at UFC 263 and believed he had finally done enough to earn a maiden title shot.
But the UFC had other plans, instead convincing Edwards of his need to settle the bitter feud with two-time title challenger Jorge Masvidal at UFC 269 this December.
With that fight now consigned to the scrap head following Masvidal’s injured-enforced withdrawal, Edwards must be wondering what more he must do to secure that elusive championship opportunity.
But his campaign for a UFC title shot was given a timely boost this week by a man who knows a thing or two about welterweight dominance in the UFC.
Leon showed incredible heart and I think he is ready for a title shot
- Georges St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre, speaking exclusively to BTSport.com as an ambassador for Love Hemp, suggested Edwards was more than worthy of a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage of all.
“He deserves the shot. It’s unfortunate for him [that he hasn’t had it yet]. I think it’s because of the way that the Nate Diaz fight ended,” St-Pierre explained during a Zoom call from his home in Montreal, Canada.
“But it happens to everybody, sometimes you get clipped. You don’t see a punch coming, you zig when you should have zagged. He did the perfect fight until that moment.
“He deserves a shot, you know. You’re in the fight business, at one point you’re going to take a shot and you might get rocked. He showed incredible heart and I think he is ready for a title shot.
“But the UFC runs a business, they make money. Of course, there’s a story with Leon and [Jorge] Masvidal and as a fan, I’m curious to see what was going to happen between them as well.”
Edwards responded to news of the Masvidal bout falling through on Twitter last month, labelling the 37-year-old a “fraud” and questioning the Miami man's desire to fight him in the first place.
“He was just a stop off on the way to the title,” Edwards added.
“The goal remains the same. Much needed family time, now, Kamaru Usman I will see you soon.”
Having just defeated Colby Covington to defend his 170lb strap for the fifth time at UFC 268 in November, it’s unlikely Usman will be back in the Octagon any time in the immediate future.
But should the fight be made, St-Pierre believes there is a blueprint for Edwards to achieve success in what would be a rematch against Usman more than six years after their first meeting.
Usman claimed the spoils on that night via unainmous decision as the pair clashed on the early preliminary card of UFC on Fox: dos Anjos vs Cowboy 2 in December 2015 – but with both men having shown remarkable improvement since that night, could we see a different result in a potential rematch?
“If I watch both fighters, Leon Edwards is more a specialist on his feet. [He uses] in-and-out movement, he’s got great footwork,” St-Pierre said.
“If I put myself into Leon Edwards’ shoes, he needs to move, he needs to be a moving target. Someone who moves is very hard to hit and very hard to take down as well. He needs to stick and move, like Muhammad Ali said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. You can’t stay in front of Kamaru Usman and then try to play a clinch game or wrestling game. You need to stick and move.
“Usman on the other hand, he needs to put the pressure and use his versatility. He’s a great striker, a great grappler too. He has the advantage in the wrestling department and that’s where he should target.
“When you fight someone, you always want to drag them to where you are the strongest because that’s where he’s going to take him out of his comfort zone.”
Usman’s journey from contender to pound-for-pound king is one that St-Pierre has watched with great interest.
With five consecutive UFC welterweight title defences now under his belt, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is slowly creeping towards competing with St-Pierre’s long held record of nine, while Usman’s record of 15 straight wins in the division put him above the Canadian in second with 12.
But there is no sense of envy in St-Pierre’s assessment of Usman’s ability.
“He is on his way to becoming the greatest welterweight but maybe the greatest of all time,” the 40-year-old stated.
The respect is clearly reciprocated with Usman suggesting St-Pierre remains a powerful presence in the 170lb division, despite competing in his last welterweight contest in November 2013.
“Georges is the shadow that haunts the division,” Usman said on a recent episode of the Full Send Podcast.
“Well, did. Not anymore. When Tyron Woodley was champ, he haunted the division. When Robbie Lawler was champ, Georges haunted the division. Because everyone knew the champ never lost his belt and he was just kind of floating out there, still training – you could tell he was still working out, and he was just kind of out there.
“Like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] now. He haunts the lightweight division because everyone is like, ‘Oh, Khabib’s the champ,’ you know?”
Now happily retired for good after making history with his victory over Michael Bisping for the middleweight title in 2017, there is no chance St-Pierre will ever grace the Octagon again.
But for all Usman’s feats in the present day, GSP’s welterweight legacy remains one of the greatest the UFC has ever seen.
Will Leon Edwards be the next man to follow in his footsteps?
Georges St-Pierre is an ambassador for Love Hemp, the UK’s leading supplier of CBD products. To find out more head to www.lovehemp.com