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Edwards and the Dream That Won't Die

"I’m a whole lot better and still just as dangerous. I’m fighting because I want to be the best in the world. I want to make a run at that.”

Over a 13-year career, Yves Edwards has emotionally surfed the highs and lows of the fight game, and the Bahamas native envisions a glorious resurgence as he hunts his second straight UFC victory at this month’s Fight for the Troops event in Fort Hood, Tex.

The lightweight pioneer, who faces unbeaten guillotine master Cody McKenzie (12-0) on the show’s undercard, established himself as a force to be reckoned with at the early turn of the new millennium by conquering formidable lightweights such Hermes Franca (twice) and Josh Thomson. Armed with an impressive 30-8-1 record and knockout power, the superbly athletic Edwards worked his name into the mix with BJ Penn, Takanori Gomi and Genki Sudo in discussions about the world’s top 155-pounders. That was back in mid-2005. Since that time, however, Edwards has only managed a disappointing 9-8 record. But now, even at age 34, the dreamer inside of the affable islander remains.

“A lot of it had to do with confidence and also mistakes preparing for fights,” said Edwards, winner of five of his past six bouts. “I lost a lot of confidence at one point in my career and I honestly didn’t know where I was going. I’ve made some changes and I don’t think I’m that guy any more. Will I lose again? It’s possible, but I don’t see it happening and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep that from happening. I’m a whole lot better and still just as dangerous. I think that guy is going to show up. I’m fighting because I want to be the best in the world. I want to make a run at that.”

It matters not to Edwards whom he must go through to get back to the top. If it’s a friend or sparring partner, so be it. Edwards had been game to battle his buddy, Melvin Guillard, at the UFC Fight for the Troops event. But when an injury bumped Kenny Florian from the show’s main event, Guillard was inserted as a replacement opposite Evan Dunham, forcing Edwards to switch gears and prepare for a grappler instead of a striker. Edwards, a married father of two who lives in Austin, took the bout change in stride.

“Melvin is ranked higher in any of the rankings than Cody,” Edwards noted, “so, yes, it’s a step down as far as the ranking of the opponent. But competition is competition and I’m sure Cody is coming to fight, so I can’t be thinking about Melvin anymore.”

McKenzie, the former fisherman whose carefree vibe is reminiscent of the fictitious surfer dude character “Jeff Spicoli” from the 1980s movie classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” would seem to be at a decided disadvantage if he is forced to stand too long with Edwards, owner of 14 knockouts. Of course, stranger things have happened in the MMA game. Along with his standup acumen, Edwards possesses remarkable well-roundedness, too, as evidenced by his 16 submission victories.

Asked if there has been a particular style of fighter that has given him the most problems throughout his career, Edwards paused momentarily. 

“Wrestlers,” he said. “Wrestlers.”

McKenzie, a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter season 12 cast, hasn’t shown much in the wrestling department. The free-wheeling Alaskan is a wild man who loves to induce chaos inside the cage. Eventually, amid that frenzy, opponents shoot on McKenzie and then pay dearly for it when trapped in the clutches of his trademark “McKenzietine” choke.

“He’s a submission guy, a tough guy,” Edwards acknowledged. “He’s going to try to create things on the ground and that makes for an entertaining fight. It’s the guys that try to stall you out that give me problems. There may be openings for both of us and I’ll try to take advantage of them before he can.”

Edwards added that he rarely shoots on foes and tries “to do all my tapping in the gym.” In fact, his submission defense has been top-notch. Edwards hasn’t been subbed in a live fight in almost five years. According to Edwards, he was born to be a fighter. As proof, he points to the day of his birth – Sept. 30, 1976. He was born one year and one day removed from the “Thrilla in Manila,” the rubber match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier that is often hailed as the greatest boxing match of all-time.

“The doctor told my mom the day I was born that I was going to be a fighter,” Edwards said. “The doctor that delivered me was a big boxing fan. It never occurred to me but I remember my dad bought me some boxing gloves when I was a kid, hung a pillow case up with some clothes in it and let me beat it up. That was a lot of fun. But I didn’t really expect to be a fighter. I wanted to play basketball. I played basketball all through high school in the Bahamas. But as I got older I started to practice martial arts and I found myself in the martial arts.”

Edwards was born into an upper middle-class family. His mother ran a flower shop, his father had a very unique profession.

“My dad was an entertainer,” he said. “My dad danced limbo back in the Bahamas. He was one of the top entertainers in the country. He’s performed for Nelson Mandela and diplomats from around the world who came to visit. He did comedy while he did his limbo dancing. He started with the bar really, really high and as he bought the bar lower and lower he would progress with his jokes. It got to the point where he would have the bar six inches from the floor and on fire, spinning two trays that were also on fire, and he would go under that bar. … Nobody did it like my dad did it.

“From all the stories I got from my aunts and uncles, he was always an athlete. They tend to point toward him whenever they see me do something pretty cool. They’ll say, ‘You’re just like your dad.’ Which is very flattering because who doesn’t want to be like their dad?”

Sadly, Edwards’ memory of his father is confined to his childhood; his father passed when he was just 12 years old.

“He was supposed to pick me up from school,” Edwards recalled. “I heard his name on the radio. I was taking an exam and my mom came up to the school. I saw her walking up toward my classroom crying, so I knew …”

Edwards and his mother moved to the United States when he was 15.
“There were some opportunities in the Bahamas but not a lot,” he said. “She made the move for my benefit. I didn’t want to move to America at the time.”

Today, the adopted Texan considers himself a happy and content family man. He trains in Austin with Tim Kennedy, Kamal Shalorus and Phil Cardella, and also supplants that training with extended training sessions in Florida with American Top Team.

“Life is awesome. My wife is a hard worker, she’s working on her Ph.D,” Edwards said. “I have a son who I love very much. My daughter is 16 now, which is crazy because my daughter is beautiful and that’s kind of hard to deal with. It was awesome when she was a kid but now, you know, boys are interested and stuff like that.”

All that is missing, it seems, is for Edwards to re-establish his glory in the Octagon. It’s been a long road back to the UFC. He’s hoping this time around will cement his legacy. He’s hoping to make liars of his doubters.

“It means a lot. The UFC is a completely different monster now,” he said. “It’s funny because the 155 pound weight class in 2004 basically consisted of like six guys. Now the UFC 155 pound weight class is the biggest weight class in the company, it has the most guys on the roster. So I’m really excited about that. The sport is so much bigger, and being in the biggest organization in the sport gives me a chance to be the number one guy in the world. I love the competition and I want to look at back and ultimately say, ‘I was the best in the world at that.’ And if I can’t say that then I want to say, ‘Man, I did everything I could to be the best in the world at that.’”