Leon Edwards refuses to look any other direction than forward, and he sees Stephen Thompson and Khamzat Chimaev in his rearview mirror.
Edwards has not competed since July 2019. No one ranked in the top four seems to want to fight the no. 3 ranked welterweight, excluding a scheduled fight against Tyron Woodley that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Edwards spoke with MMA Fighting and doubled-down on his refusal to fight backwards in the division.
“As far as 'Wonderboy', he got knocked out like a fight ago,” Edwards said of Thompson. “[Anthony] Pettis knocked him out one fight ago. If I go out there right now and I fight Wonderboy and I beat Wonderboy the UFC will be like ‘let’s go one more in the top-five and then we’ll go for a title.’ They wouldn’t give me a title shot straight away."
“For me to get to the world title, which is my aim and my dream, is to beat one of those top-four [guys] I have to fight someone in the top-four to get my title shot," he continued. "I’m on an eight-fight win streak now. I don’t need to go fight someone like 'Wonderboy'. He does nothing for my career... He’s coming down, I’m going up. If he gets one or two more wins, then I’ll consider it.”
Another name brought up in the same breath as Edwards is rising star Khamzat Chimaev. Despite the name value, Edwards is adamantly against fighting an unranked opponent.
“As far as Chimaev, he’s only had what one fight at welterweight against a lightweight guy?” he said in reference to Chimaev’s win over Rhys McKee. “It’s hard to judge from that. When he’s calling me out, I don’t really pay attention. It is what it is. I don’t really pay attention too much.”
“He has to at least beat somebody in the top-f**king-25 before you go straight to f**king fight No. 3,” Edwards laughed. “At least fight somebody in the top-25 or -30 first...Then we can go and start talking from there, but the MMA community is literally if you feed them anything, they’ll buy into it. It is what it is.”