Leon Edwards says Abu Dhabi 'perfect' for next UFC title defence

Welterweight champion prefers October 21 card at Etihad Arena to a London return this summer

Leon Edwards celebrates after defending his UFC welterweight title against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in London on March 18, 2023. Reuters
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UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is targeting Abu Dhabi for his second title defence.

The Jamaican-born Brit, unbeaten in his past 12 professional bouts, last month defeated former belt-holder Kamaru Usman in their rematch at UFC 286 in London. He had been expected to headline once more on the promotion's anticipated return to the English capital in July.

However, while Edwards told Sky Sports on Thursday that he would consider “stupid money” to fight in London this summer, he would prefer his next bout to take place in the UAE capital.

Abu Dhabi will host UFC 294 at Etihad Arena on October 21. As of yet, no bouts have been confirmed for the event, although it will include at least one championship clash.

"That would be perfect for me, Abu Dhabi," Edwards said. "I get time to nurse my injuries, I get time to get back into it slowly, so I feel like Abu Dhabi would be perfect for me, for sure.

“In the last year or so I’ve fought three times I think; I’d love to fight now towards the end of the year. The Abu Dhabi card would be great.”

UFC champion Leon Edwards gives seminar in Dubai

UFC champion Leon Edwards gives seminar in Dubai
UFC champion Leon Edwards gives seminar in Dubai

Edwards, 21-3 as a pro (one no contest), is looking for a little time off having first come through his sensational title win against Usman in August last year and then the rematch at O2 Arena.

Asked if there was any chance he would compete in London in July, Edwards replied: “No, unless it comes with some stupid money, then I might consider it. The bag always talks. Come with some stupid money and I might consider it. But apart from that…

“I fought under a month ago, so I’ve still got stuff I’ve got to deal with first. So literally next week I’d have to be back in camp and back to work. August to March I did that already and now they’re saying March to July, I don’t think makes sense.”

As for his next opponent, UFC president Dana White has said already that Colby Covington sits at the front of the queue. The former two-time title challenger weighed in as back-up to Edwards-Usman in London, but has not fought since defeating Jorge Masvidal in March last year.

On Thursday, Edwards cited top-ranked contenders Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad as other potential opponents.

“I think Colby Covington is like a Btech Usman, there’s nothing there,” the champion said. “If that’s what they want I’ll give them that - the opponent doesn’t bother me, it’s more the date that bothers me. So we’ll see.

“I remember when I was going through the pandemic [Covington] was like, ‘Who’s Leon Edwards?’ And now look, he’s like begging me for the title shot. How times have changed, now I’m king of the hill and I’ll sit back and let him beg some more. I’ve earned it.

“Now I’m the champion, I decide. Colby isn’t a champion so doesn’t decide anything. That’s the difference. If it is Colby it’s Colby, they are all similar fights anyway. There’s nothing fearful about Colby.”

Updated: April 14, 2023, 8:27 AM