Leon Edwards has accused his UFC welterweight rivals of acting like “divas” as he prepares to step back into the octagon after 20 months away when he takes on late replacement Belal Muhammad in Las Vegas.
It has been a frustrating time for Edwards, who has seen showdowns against former champion Tyron Woodley, once, and rising star Khamzat Chimaev, on three occasions, fall through because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Contests against the likes of Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal have failed to materialise although UFC president Dana White has suggested Edwards would be in line for a title shot against Kamaru Usman if he wins this weekend.
Edwards has been victorious in his last eight fights – the third longest streak in the 170lb division’s history – after a defeat to Usman in December 2015 and would relish a return bout with the reigning welterweight champion.
“After going out and beating Belal Muhammad, I’ll look towards a title shot,” Edwards said. “To hear Dana speak of me in a good light like that, it means a lot.
“All these other guys don’t want to compete. It seems like the only guys who want to fight are me and probably Usman, 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 anything they ask for and that’s not how it works. That’s why I’ve got respect for Belal stepping up, fighters fight and this is what the UFC was built on.
“I’m focused on myself, I’m focused on Belal, this is my title fight, I’m taking him 100 per cent seriously. After that I’ll look at the rest of the division.”
Muhammad boasts a four-fight winning run and has competed three times since Edwards was last active in July 2019, including a unanimous decision victory over Dhiego Lima just four weeks ago.
Edwards, who was born in Jamaica before moving with his family to Birmingham aged nine, is third in the UFC’s welterweight rankings, 10 places higher than Muhammad, but he insists he will take on all comers.
“I’m the only one that’s offering to fight guys outside the top-five,” he said. “Everyone else is sitting on the number and demanding they want stuff. I’m the one that’s offered to fight Khamzat and Belal.
“I’m the only guy that’s taking this kind of risk and it will all pay off. I believe I’m number one in the world, it doesn’t matter about number two or three. I truly believe I’m the best in the world and I’ll prove that.”
Reflecting on his time on the sidelines, Edwards added: “There was a lot of ups and downs over the last year or so.
“I used the time to grow my skillset, refocus myself. What kept me motivated and in the gym was my long-term goal to be a world champion, and knowing that one day, eventually, I’m going to fight again.”