The Face of UK MMA? UFC Vegas 21 Headliner Leon Edwards Believes It’s Him

After Michael Bisping retired from mixed martial arts following a lengthy career that saw him make it to the top of the middleweight mountain, the search was on for who would emerge as the face of U.K. MMA. The United Kingdom has seen plenty of big names over the years, from Bisping to Dan Hardy to Jimi Manuwa to Paul Daley. These days, there’s Darren Till, of course — but UFC Vegas 21 headliner Leon Edwards believes it’s him.

The welterweight has been out of action since July of 2019, a span that will reach its conclusion, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Saturday night. When he steps into the octagon against Belal Muhammad, a full 602 days will have passed since Edwards last competed.

Despite his absence, asked by Cageside Press during Thursday’s UFC Vegas 21 virtual media day who he believes the current face of UK MMA is, Edwards suggested it was him.

“I think me. I’m the guy. I’m the guy that’s doing it, I’m the guy that’s active, on an eight fight winning streak, going into a ninth,” said Edwards. “A ninth fight. So I believe that that’s me, and after Saturday night, I’ll prove that once again.”

Edwards’ current run has been impressive to say the least. His eight consecutive wins include names like Vicente Luque, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson, and Rafael dos Anjos. And the welterweight has shown a willingness to fight anyone, from Colby Covington to Khamzat Chimaev, although neither of those fights panned out.

While the Khamzat fight falling through happened for obvious reasons (the All Stars gym member has been battling COVID-19), Edwards has taken issue with some of the other athletes in the 170lb division.

“After I go out and beat Belal Muhammad, I’ll look towards the title shot. All these other guys, they don’t want to compete,” exclaimed Edwards. “Seems like the only guy that wants to fight me is [welterweight champ Kamaru] Usman probably. Everyone else is making excuses, and waiting out and demanding stuff they don’t deserve. This is a division built on divas. They all think they should get everything they ask for, that’s not how it works. That’s why I’ve got respect for Belal for stepping up.”

In his time away, Edwards said Thursday, the motivation to carry on was simply improvement. “Let’s use this time to grow my skillset, let’s use this time to refocus myself — that’s what kept me motivated.”

Watch the full UFC Vegas 21 virtual media day scrum with Leon Edwards above. The event takes place this Saturday, March 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.