The British welterweight star will face Nate Diaz at UFC 263 next month, and he then aims for a title fight with old rivals Usman.
Leon Edwards believes a rematch with UFC champion Kamaru Usman would be “ totally different ” from their first fight over fifty years ago.
British contender Edwards is likely Usman’s next strap contender assuming he can live up to his favorite tag against Nate Diaz next month at UFC 263.
And despite losing a relatively one-sided decision to the current champion when they fought in 2015, he says he can capture the gold if they fight again.
Speaking to Mirror Fighting as part of the launch of their ‘UFC – OnSide Youth Mentoring Program’ to help struggling youngsters in the UK, Edwards spoke about the differences between the two men’s matches since that first meeting.
“Everything is different now,” he replied when asked what had changed over the past six years. “When I fought Usman I was 23, I was young, learning my way and just getting to the UFC.
“I’m now a UFC veteran, I’ve fought in a lot of different styles and just feel like I’m a whole different person than I was back then.”
After losing to Usman, his third and final career loss to date, Birmingham native Edwards embarked on an incredible eight-game winning streak, taking victories over veterans Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson .
And it appeared he was on track for a welterweight title shot when, after defeating former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Edwards was paired with recently dethroned welterweight king Tyron. Woodley, at the O2 Arena in London.
But days before the scheduled date of the fight, the coronavirus pandemic ended the event, which began a scorching period of fight cancellations, which only made him see the inside of an octagon. once after July 2019.
In March, he took a late opinion against Belal Muhammed after three separate fight dates with hopeful Khamzat Shimaev fallen by the wayside, and the match was ruled without competition after a look in the second round.
But he believes a win over big star Diaz will be enough to catapult him to the UFC title, in the same way that it earned Jorge Masvidal a golden chance.
“I believe I am currently the number one candidate,” he added. “My work has proven that, but after going out there and beating Nate Diaz like I imagine, I can’t see where the UFC would go next.
“I’ll be world champion by the end of 2021, that’s what I see in my head and that’s what’s going to happen.
“Nate is going to come out looking for a war, like he does in all of his fights, and I don’t think he will be looking to bring me down in search of submissions.”
“He’s going to put pressure on me from the start like when he fought Pettis, he will try to put me on my back foot, but I want to come out victorious and I will meet him in the middle.”
The UFC – OnSide Youth Mentorship Program will be led by former UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa, UFC welterweight Leon Edwards and UFC middleweight Darren Till.
Each athlete will lead a martial arts-focused mentoring program as part of the After School Health and Wellness program in three OnSide youth areas across the UK.