"The Brazilian crowd is going to be crazy. I can’t wait to feel the environment. I embrace stuff like that because it will only motivate me more to get the finish." - Leon Edwards
Big moments are described as such for a reason, but the true magnitude of things has to be weighed by the individual themselves. It is an easy thing to paint a fighter’s UFC debut as the most pressure-filled thing they have experienced to date, but the reality of that comes from the athlete’s personal perspective. Leon Edwards isn’t dulling down his entry to the UFC by any imaginable means, but he’s also unwilling to get caught up in the whirlwind of it all.
The West Midlands, England product has the utmost confidence in his skill set, as that talent is what made the six-fight winning streak that led to an invite from the biggest promotion in MMA possible - and for good reason. In his eight victories since entering the professional realm back in 2011, all but one of Edwards’ victories has come by way of finish. That type of output and being able to consistently dust his opposition began to garner the caliber of attention that leads to bigger things.
Yet, while the call from the big show meant Edwards was about to step up into the big leagues, the UTC Birmingham representative hasn’t allowed it to shake his focus. The infamous “Octagon jitters” have claimed more than a few psyches on fight night, but Edwards is confident he won’t be one of them.
The Englishman is a game fighter with a hunger for the squabble. And everything else that comes along with fight night is just that…everything else.
“I really don’t think of it like that,” Edwards said. “I really don’t build this event up as a special moment. It’s just another day. I’m a self-motivated guy. I love winning, so for me I feel like it’s a habit to win. That’s just the mindset.”
While there is nothing easy for a fighter making their Octagon debut, Edwards will be facing additional circumstances when he steps in to face Claudio Silva at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Saint Preux on Saturday. Not only will the sure-handed Brit be facing a fellow fighter eager to break into the consciousness of UFC fans, but he will be facing a Brazilian in an arena filled with his opponent’s countrymen.
That scenario alone has forced numerous fighters to wilt under the passionate chants of the Brazilian collective, but Edwards has taken a different approach. Rather than associate the sea of fighting faithful as his enemy on fight night, he’s grasping onto the situation and taking it all in. Edwards loves a raucous crowd and plans on giving the Brazilians in attendance a reason to get excited because they are going to motivate him to put on a show.
“The Brazilian crowd is going to be crazy,” Edwards said. “I can’t wait to feel the environment. I embrace stuff like that because it will only motivate me more to get the finish. I’m seriously looking to finish this guy and the crowd is going to see fireworks.”
On paper, the matchup between Edwards and Silva appears to be the classic “striker vs. grappler” pairing that has been so often seen over the past 20 years of MMA. And while Edwards isn’t making any bones of this being the case, there are additional elements involved that make their upcoming bout unique.
Both fighters are highly-touted prospects who have competed for the same promotions at different intervals, and it would seem likely their respective success would have put them on a collision course well before reaching the UFC. Silva is also a Brazilian who has trained and operated out of London, which means “Hannibal” and Edwards have hovered near one another for quite some time. Yet, despite their paths never crossing on the regional scene, Edwards believes it is more fitting that they get to tangle under the bright lights of the UFC Octagon.
“I think this matchup is jiu-jitsu vs. a pure mixed martial arts fighter and I believe that will show in the fight,” Edwards said. “We have been around the same scene for a while and I’ll just whoop him in the biggest promotion now. That only makes me look better.
He believes it will make his victory all the more impressive as eyes all across the MMA community will get to see his handiwork. And in doing so, it will put another big charge into the resurgent U.K. MMA scene and show the world there is another wave of top-notch English talent on the rise.
It’s been several years since Michael Bisping winning the third season of The Ultimate Fighter served to spark the “British Invasion” of the UFC ranks, and Edwards believes the table is set for another pop to come from his fellow countrymen. With that in mind he’s certainly willing to do his part and help bring more of a spotlight on how the sport has grown in his home country.
“I think there are a lot of fighters coming up in the U.K. that could take the sport to the next level,” Edwards said. “And it starts with me.”