Very few 0-0 fighters get the kind of attention Christian Edwards will when he makes his pro debut at Bellator 218, but that’s what comes when you’re a key training partner for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
You may know him as Jon Jones’ training partner. But you’re about to be introduced to him as Christian Edwards, Bellator MMA light heavyweight. Edwards makes his promotional and professional debut at Bellator 218, and there is no question that it has been an interesting road to this point.
For an 0-0 fighter with just a handful of amateur bouts under his belt, there’s also a fair bit of attention. Because of where Edwards trains, the storied Jackson-Wink MMA, and who he trains with, including Jones.
He’s taking it all in stride, however, telling Cageside Press ahead of the fight that he’s excited to have a good debut. “I can’t wait to display my skills,” Edwards said. Skills he has now spent years honing.
And yes, some days, it feels like a dream. “Every day,” he corrected. “Seriously every day I walk downstairs and see the big JW on the padded wall and see all the big pictures of Jon and Holly [Holm] and Michelle [Waterson] and Diego [Sanchez] on the wall. It’s a surreal feeling, for sure. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and blessed.”
Those photos have become a goal. “My goal is to be a world champion one day. Right behind that, my next goal is to get my picture on the wall.” Not just any spot, either, but the big wall, “where all the big monumental names of the gym are, hanging above the cage.”
Like many an origin story in MMA, Edwards’ began with some trouble in school. While he jokes that he was getting suspended every other week, in reality, “probably like every month I was getting suspended. Being a knucklehead, getting into fights. Not intentionally starting fights of course, but I would never shy away from a fight.”
Part of the reason, “I was naturally a big kid. I was bigger than most of the kids in my grade.” Edwards feels the other kids might have been intimidated by that. In turn, they singled him out. “I got messed with a lot, but I would never shy away from a fight.”
In response, his mother signed him up for jiu-jitsu. But even before then, Edwards had an MMA dream. “I had been into MMA way before I got into jiu-jitsu. I watched all the old UFCs when I was a kid, when I was like 13. It was something I always had an interest in. I wasn’t big on sports, I wasn’t big on football, I wasn’t big on basketball, I really liked UFC. I watched UFC, I watched Bellator, I liked MMA. Finally I got into a jiu-jitsu school and I was like ‘wow, this is the closet thing to MMA I’ve ever done, I kind of want to keep doing this, I want to go further in this.'”
Jiu-jitsu led to striking, and wrestling, and from there Edwards “just slowly began my journey as a mixed martial artist.”
Among his early inspirations were ‘The Spider,’ and a man he would later wind up training with. “My all-time favorite fighter to watch back in the day was Anderson Silva. I was a huge Anderson Silva fan,” Edwards admitted. “Secondly, was Jon Jones. I looked up to Jon for a really long time. Youngest champion in UFC history. I was like ‘man that could be me one day. I want that one day.’ Maybe not UFC, but something like that.”
As Edwards recalls, “UFC 128 is when he won the belt from Shogun. I remember being a kid and watching that and I was just like ‘wow this guy is my hero.'” It never crossed his mind that he might some day work alongside Jones as the champ prepared for another title defense. Instead, he was just a kid in awe, later thinking “that’s awesome, that’s what I want for my kids.”
“I was 13 or 14 when that happened. I was being a kid and not really having any interest in anything else, that was a huge inspiration for me,” he told us.
Who would have thought that years later, Edwards would end up at Jackson-Wink MMA, the very same gym as Jon Jones. On a scholarship. The very first recipient of the Jackson Wink/Mata Leon scholarship, no less. Something unheard of in MMA.
Mata Leon Sports Management actually scouted Edwards during one of his amateur fights. The firm represents the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Juan Adams, and Dominick Reyes, among others. Richard Guerrero, the man behind the company, reached out to Edwards on Facebook, and things blossomed from there. “He immediately was very straight forward, very honest, very nice,” Edwards remembered. “Automatically I could just tell he was a legit dude, not just a legit dude but he was sincere about everything he was saying. I signed with him I think in May. He had been talking about flying me out here, and having me do a training camp here.”
When discussion turned to the idea of Edwards coming out to Albuquerque, New Mexico to do a camp at Jackson-Wink, Guerrero asked his new athlete how long he’d want to stay. Edwards “just said kind of like jokingly, ‘permanently.'”
“He was like ‘okay, done.’ I laughed, because I thought he was joking.” The offer, however, was serious. “That’s when he told me that him and Wink had been talking about a scholarship program they were trying to start, and he thought I was the perfect candidate for that.”
“I think eventually it will come where I’m just known as Christian Edwards, next Bellator light heavyweight champ.”
Edwards arrived at Jackson-Wink in July, and has been there ever since. This Friday he makes his pro debut in Thackerville, OK, taking on Roman Huerta. It’s a preliminary card fight, fitting for a fighter with no pro fight experience. Yet the expectations remain lofty, again, because of who Edwards trains with. Most fighters, at 0-0, wouldn’t be getting this much attention.
It’s not nerve racking at all for Edwards, however. Instead, “it’s really motivation for me,” he said. “I love attention, I’m not going to lie. I love attention and I love getting the right eyes on me. Because I know that when I do preform, there are going to be people watching that I should want to impress, and want to really give a good performance for.”
Later, he added that he feeds off the attention. A good thing, because all eyes will be on him in Thackerville. They might be expecting Jones 2.0. Edwards is aware of that.
On opponent Huerta, Edwards stressed that “I’m not taking him lightly by any means, I’m really not.” In his next breath, however, he added that “I don’t want to come off as arrogant by any means, but I’ve seen him fight… I just feel like he’s not on my level. There are levels to this game, and I just feel like we’re on different levels. I think that, March 22nd, on Friday, I’m going to show that.”
Edwards doesn’t feel any pressure to do something spectacular in his debut, just because of his association with Jones. “No pressure at all,” he told Cageside Press. He does, however, want to establish himself as his own fighter in due time.
“Of course. I don’t want to live under Jon’s shadow forever,” he admitted ahead of his debut. “I get it, it’s a part of the marketing game, that’s how they sell me as a fighter. ‘Jon Jones’ training partner.’ I get that, that’s fine. At one point in his career, he was probably known as Rashad Evan’s training partner. I get it, that’s just what media needs to do to sell me as a fighter.”
Yet while he accepts the role for now, “eventually at one point, I want to be known as my own individual fighter, and be known for my own unique style, and not just Jon Jones’ training partner.” Recognizing that it could take some time, he added that “I’m patient, I’m not going to expect it to come immediately after this fight, but I think eventually it will come where I’m just known as Christian Edwards, next Bellator light heavyweight champ.”
Christian Edwards makes his debut against Roman Huerta this Friday, March 22 at Bellator 218 in Thackerville, OK. The preliminary card airs right here on Cageside Press!