After 15 years and 60 fights as a professional mixed martial artist, one would think that there are no more surprises in store for Yves Edwards.
One could think that, rightly, until the morning of October 5th when the “Thugjitsu” veteran’s UFC on FX opponent Jeremy Stephens was arrested, held by Minnesota police, and not allowed to participate in the fisticuff festivities that evening. It was a strange situation for all parties involved as the UFC’s top brass tried everything they could to get Stephens out so he could fight; meanwhile, Edwards continued to warm up and keep focused for a lightweight tangle that never got the chance to materialize.
It was shocking how everything unfortunately unfolded, but, truth be told, there was foreshadowing only hours earlier that something was destined to go wrong. At weigh-ins the day prior, Edwards broke two of his long standing and almost holy traditions: eating on the scale and wearing superhero underwear. Both fight fans and Edwards himself were aghast at this weigh-in blasphemy, and the fighter takes full blame for what followed.
“I think that's the reason the whole thing got screwed up,” admits Edwards. “I screwed up some of the vibes in the universe by not being prepared. That was completely my fault. I don't know if you can see it, but at the weigh-ins when I get on stage and I’m getting down to my skivvies, I look down at my underwear and I realize I'm not even wearing my superhero underwear. I was already distracted. I had them in my backpack and I forgot to change. I screwed up. If the universe is all vibes and everything is connected then it is probably my fault that Jeremy got arrested.”
All joking aside, the 36-year-old Bahamian brawler wasn’t angry, just disappointed that he didn’t get to fight. Athletes come and go like the tide, but Edwards has been an MMA fixture dating back to his initial bouts in Texas starting in 1997. It’s been a competitive career spread across companies, countries, and continents, and doesn’t appear to be losing any speed. Maybe a younger fighter or at least a more emotional fighter would’ve been thrown by the oddness of the occasion, but Edwards stayed in his locker room and got ready to fight like it was any other fight because, in the end, it would be just another scrap once the cage door closed.
“Once I set my mind to something, I'm good at staying in that frame of mind,” explains Edwards. “My frame of mind was if they get him out then we're going to fight. I don't want to look bad in a fight against a guy who has been in jail all day. His mind might have been screwed up from it, but I wanted to keep every advantage of mine. This is a fight in the UFC and in the UFC every fight is tough. If there is a mental advantage in this then I don't want it to be in his favor. I just wanted to be ready to fight and as far as I was concerned that was going to happen. I stayed in the state of mind that this is going to go down and it's going to be a battle.”
At the post-fight press conference and in his video blog, UFC president Dana White paid numerous compliments to Edwards’ composure and professionalism not only that night, but for all the years they’ve worked together. If the Stephens scrap had taken place, it would’ve been Edwards’ sixth Octagon appearance in the last two years, but before that Edwards fought periodically in the UFC (10 times) throughout the past decade. Many struggle to stay in this business for 10 or 20 fights, while Edwards is looking to surpass 60 fights with an exemplary record of 41-18-1. On the surface, the key to this longevity is a mix of mental flexibility, physical readiness, and not being on the wrong end of many Knockout of the Night or Fight of the Night bonuses.
“It’s not one of those things that you could just make a pie chart for,” tells Edwards. “The mental part of it is definitely a big part, but there are so many big parts. Mentally, being happy with yourself and loving what you do. On top of that, constantly trying to improve. Being able to step back and look at it from a different angle and not being caught up in the emotions of the way things work. Not trying to decide things out of emotion, but instead trying to decide things on what is the best thing for you. The physical part of it? I've been lucky that I haven't been in a lot of wars. I haven't taken very many beatings. I was unconscious once, and lost by TKO three times. The fight with [Sam] Stout was the only time I've ever been unconscious in 60 fights, so if I could go another 60 fights and it doesn't happen for that long then I would be happy. I've dished out some beatings, but haven't taken many. Fighting is still fun to me. I'm around a good team. I have my home base at American Top Team and then there are all the other guys I work with on my own. They have helped me improve, and improving is how you stick around in this sport. I still feel young physically. All those things coming together have kept me around for 15 years, and have me in the frame of mind that I want to keep going.”
Honestly, what keeps Edwards fighting is his happiness. He has been and will continue to be surrounded by the people that he loves, from his wife and family to his friends and teammates. “Ultimately, if I win by a spectacular knockout or lose by a boring decision, I'm going to go back to the locker room with my teammates, who are my best friends, and then I'm going to meet up with my wife and my family - I'm going to be with the best people in the world for me,” says Edwards. Whether it is inside or outside of the cage, Edwards has his unflinching support system in place, and still has fun fighting all these years later.
“I'm a pretty simple guy,” admits Edwards. “My wife loves to eat healthy and she loves to cook healthy. I don't eat out much. I take protein and I take fish oil. I just go to the gym and I feel like I work hard. Yeah, I get tired and some days I don't feel like it, but a lot of times those days once I get in and get it started I have so much fun and feel good. I think it has a lot to do with me still being a kid. Not a 'child at heart', but me being stupid like a kid and always wanting to have fun.”
Up next for Edwards is the December 8th rescheduled rumble in “The Emerald City” with “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens at UFC on FOX. As luck would have it, the 26-year-old knockout artist from Des Moines, Iowa is still itching to tangle with Edwards two months later. At 20-8, the heavy-handed Stephens is on a two fight losing skid against Donald Cerrone and former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The owner of three Knockout of the Night and one Fight of the Night bonuses, Stephens is a bullying brawler with an often underrated ground game whose fights always have highlight reel potential.
“Jeremy is a tough guy with big power,” reveals Edwards. “He just carries that power throughout the whole fight. You have to keep your eyes open, be smart, and not make any mistakes. I think that his strong suit is carrying that power throughout the whole fight. He's always dangerous because he always needs just one chance. I think this fight, I'm a little more pumped for it. It's a guy I know personally as a guy outside of this sport and as a participant in this sport. It's somebody I respect, I respect his skill, and I like the guy. We've hung out on a few occasions and he's a cool dude. I'm excited. My mouth waters over this fight.”
In preparation for this Seattle struggle, the nomadic Edwards has been refining his patented “Thugjitsu” with the usual cast of characters at the renowned American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. From his home in Austin, Texas, Edwards also makes western trips to Antonio McKee’s Bodyshop Fitness in Lakewood, California. If one can't find him in either place, Edwards has been known to share a wrestling mat or two with former All-Americans Steve Brown from Central Michigan and Dan Vallimont from Penn State. In general, Edwards is focused on Stephens, but, in the gym, he is preparing for Godzilla.
“When it comes to an opponent, I just train for the best guy in the world every time,” states Edwards. “When I train my wrestling, I'm getting ready for a guy like GSP or someone of that level. When I work my boxing, I'm training for the Manny Pacquiaos or Floyd Mayweathers. I know that I'm not going to fight someone of that level. For me, you train for the best guy. Yeah, you work some specific things for each guy and what their game plan might be depending on what his strengths are, but I just train for the best guy. I hope when this life is over and this afterlife thing is real, if it is up to me, I would spar everyday with Batman.”
In conclusion, what can other fighters - young and old - learn from a 15-year man with five dozen fights under his belt? Enjoy your time in this sport and keep moving forward. Have friends, have a family, and have fun. A loss isn’t the end of the world and a win shouldn’t be one’s only gratification. After spending hours in the cage and countless amounts of time in the gym, Edwards is as excited as ever to step into the Octagon, to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent under the bright lights, to be watched by the thousands in attendance and the millions at home, and get another chance to unleash some “Thugjitsu”.
“I try not to live in the past,” affirms Edwards. “I take it for what it is and then move on to the next one. Every experience has been awesome. I've learned something from every loss, and I try to learn something from every fight I win. It's not necessarily the fight itself that stands out. It's more the surrounding events and the people around me. It's hard to say that any of the fights were a low because I'm always around people that I love. It's also kind of hard to pick a high for that same reason. As far as time in the cage, every time I step into the Octagon I feel at home. When a fight starts, I feel like I'm in my own universe. I hear the voices, I hear his corner, I hear my corner, and the ref is just like a floating head. I almost never even see the ref. Every fight means something to me because I get to go into this world that most people in this world don't even know exists. I'm excited about the fight just for the fact that I get to fight. There are a very select people in the world that get to go out there and punch someone in the face for money and that excites me. I'm going to go in there and bring my A game.”
This Saturday in Seattle, Washington, lightweights collide when Stephens, finally, takes on Edwards. “For me and Jeremy, all you have to have is your eyes to see an entertaining slugfest,” asserts Edwards, who hopes the only surprise stemming from this high-paced, striking showcase would be a Fight Night bonus. “Fans should expect a very entertaining and a very fun fight because that is best suited for my style. I've learned things from things that I've done wrong in the past of how to make certain things happen in a fight, when to make them happen, and at the pace I want them to happen. It is very hard for me to win a boring fight, and I plan on going out there and winning.”
As long as he's clad in superhero underwear and has a snack for the scale, Edwards will be ready for this fight and, hopefully, a few dozen more.
Yves Edwards - Not Slowing Down Yet
"I try not to live in the past. I take it for what it is and then move on to the next one. Every experience has been awesome." - Yves Edwards