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Leon
Edwards
’ first bout since June 2019 had an anticlimactic
ending.

The British welterweight contender showed no signs of ring rust in
the early stages of the
UFC Fight Night 187
headliner against Belal
Muhammad
, as his striking looked crisp and he rattled his
opponent with a head kick in the opening stanza. However, the
action screeched to a halt when Edwards inadvertently poked
Muhammad in the eye 18 seconds into Round 2. When Muhammad
confirmed he could not continue, the fight was waved off and
declared a no contest.

Edwards was understandly disappointed with the result.

“First, I want to apologize to Belal Muhammad. A long, long year
for me and I prepped so hard. I wish him well, I wish him a full
recovery,” Edwards said on the UFC on ESPN+ post-fight show. “Going
into it, I said I didn’t believe in ring rust…I showed it
tonight.

“I was just getting into the flow of it. To have that freak
accident happen, I’m heartbroken. It’s been a long year and half.
To come back to this, it’s upsetting you know?”

Heading into Saturday night, Edwards was perhaps the most unsung
contender at 170 pounds, with an eight-bout winning streak that
included a decision win over Rafael dos
Anjos
in his last outing at UFC on ESPN 4. Then, the bad luck
began. A headlining bout vs. Tyron
Woodley
on home soil was scrapped at the beginning of the
coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, and then multiple bookings with
Khamzat
Chimaev
fell through as both fighters had their own battles
with COVID-19. The fight ending foul against Muhammad is just the
latest in a string of unfortunate incidents.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s been a long, long year and half,” he
said. “A lot of ups and downs — none of these top guys accepting
the fight. Belal Muhammad stepped up and accepted the fight. I give
him respect for that. I have so much I learned for the last year
and a half that I wanted to show.

“I was going into the fight with the mentality of wanting to fight
for the belt next,” he continued. “So now what’s next? What do I do
now? Is it a rematch, is it someone else? I feel like I deserve a
title shot. That’s nine fights in a row. I’ve fought everyone they
give me.”

At the moment, it appears that Kamaru
Usman
will defend his 170-pound belt in a rematch against
Jorge
Masvidal
sometime later this year. Although a no contest isn’t
the result Edwards wanted in his first Octagon appearance in more
than 600 days, he doesn’t have any qualms about doubling down on
his request for a shot at UFC gold. He believes his dues have been
paid.

“I’ve worked my way back up from getting defeated by Kamaru Usman.
I’ve fought everybody, I’ve offered to fight everybody, so I feel I
deserve a title shot now,” he said. “Why should I do 10 fights to
get a title shot, you know? I believe I deserve a title shot
next.”


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