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LEON ‘Rocky’ Edwards aims to do what no Brit has done before on Saturday, defend a UFC championship belt on US soil and conquer America.

Birmingham’s welterweight champion won his 170lb strap in Salt Lake City, Utah in the summer of 2022 with a final round head kick knockout that went viral the moment in landed.

He then defended the belt back in March in the UK, when he dominated the rematch with former champion Kamaru Usman at the O2 arena.

But, if the 32-year-old can successfully retain his belt in Las Vegas against Colby Covington at UFC 296 this weekend, he will have achieved something no UK fighter has managed before.

Michael Bisping sprinkled the magic on his Hall of Fame career by becoming the first Brit to win a UFC crown back in California in 2016. And, like Edwards, he enjoyed a maiden defence on UK soil.

But ‘The Count’ lost his championship belt to GOAT candidate Georges St Pierre in New York City the following year, then retired just a few weeks later.

If Edwards can retain his belt on US soil it will signify another landmark moment for British MMA.


After he was booed by his own fans inside the O2 in London in 2019, Edwards has gone on to become the most beloved and most complete UK mixed martial artist in the sport.

The Jamaican-born, Birmingham-raised fighter endured a long and winding road to the UFC championship belt. Now he’s here, he’s determined to extend his stay.

His 25-fight career started in 2011 and his witnessed just three defeats against 21 victories.

Unbeaten since 2015, Edwards has won 11 straight in picking up the 170lb belt, with a 50% finish rate.

A tall, rangy kickboxer with superb takedown defence, a solid ground game and relentless fortitude, there are no holes in his game and right now he’s at the peak of his athletic prowess.


Challenger Covington, 35, goes by the nickname ‘Chaos’ for a reason. He’s the polar opposite to mild mannered Edwards in that his larger-than-life persona demands huge media attention, especially in the US.

An outspoken supporter of former president Donald Trump – who will be in attendance on Saturday – Covington may be a polarising figure, but he’s guaranteed Box Office.

That’s probably how he’s managed to get a title shot despite having just one fight in the two years since he lost two title opportunities against Usman.

A former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler, Covington’s strengths are his chain grappling and ridiculous gas tank. He overwhelms his opponents with pressure rather than power.

He’s lost just three times in 20 pro fights, but has lost twice in his last four fights.


This is likely Covington’s final opportunity to become a legitimate UFC champion – he held the interim welterweight belt back in 2018 – and that means his coming all guns blazing.

If he can make this a 25-minute grappling match then, of course, he can dominate the judge’s scorecards.

But the efficiency of Edwards takedown defence, as he showed against Usman and others, cannot be overlooked.

When both men are on their feet and trading strikes, it’s Edwards who has a significant edge. He’s simply too creative, too strong and too fast for Covington to compete with.

Whilst I expect Colby, roared on by Trump and the Vegas support, to have some big moments, this is Edwards’ fight to lose.

The best version of Leon Edwards beats the best version of Colby Covington every time. And I am expecting the best version of the champion inside the Octagon on Saturday night.

TIP: Edwards by TKO Round 5 – 20/1

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