Edwards is set to take on the reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in the headlining bout of UFC 278 on Aug. 20 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. He finally got the title shot after Usman defeated Masvidal and former interim title holder Colby Covington twice each. “The Nigerian Nightmare” rose to the top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings after lapping past top contenders in his division.
With the other top-ranked fighters already beat, Edwards currently presents the toughest challenge. He previously talked about giving Masvidal the first shot at the title if he is able to dethrone Usman.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Masvidal expressed his desire to face Edwards even if the latter lost out on the promotional gold against Usman. The 37-year-old Florida native feels he matches up well against the Englishman and backed himself to come out on top of the contest.
“I think naturally I’m faster than him,” Masvidal said (ht MMA Fighting). “I know I’m smarter than him. I have more power. We’ve fought a lot of common opponents and he couldn’t do anything to them but give them a split decision. I put those same guys on stretchers.
“I do worry well with the strikers as everybody knows. It’s like those wrestlers, those guys who have wrestled since they were 7 years old. They can take me out of my comfort zone, put me on my back and not allow me to use all my tools where I have some problems. Leon’s not that guy. He doesn’t have that next level wrestling or endurance. I know he takes a lot of guys down, but the caliber of takedowns and the opponents that he does it to, it’s not me so I don’t see his grappling being a problem for a me. The striking, I welcome it. Let’s find out. Let’s go.”
Masvidal Punched Edwards Backstage in 2019
In March 2019, Masvidal scored an impressive knockout of Darren Till in enemy territory at UFC Fight Night in London. Following the win, Masvidal was conducting an interview backstage when he crossed paths with Edwards and confronted him.
Things escalated quick after Masvidal threw punches at Edwards, leaving him with a cut to his face. The incident garnered “Gamebred” more following as he went viral for his quote of dishing out a “three-piece and a soda.”
Edwards refused to press charges against him and called for the promotion to book the two for a showdown. They were supposed to clash at UFC 269, but Masvidal ended up pulling out with an undisclosed injury.
Masvidal Believes Usman Will Defeat Edwards at UFC 278
Edwards’ last loss came against Usman in Dec. 2015. He has since gone undefeated in his last ten outings and feels confident he would avenge his loss at UFC 278.
Meanwhile, Usman has also improved by leaps and bounds, with significant growth in his striking abilities. Masvidal backed Usman to beat Edwards again in the rematch, considering what he had seen from both athletes inside the octagon.
“I don’t [see Leon Edwards winning] to tell you the truth,” Masvidal said. “It’s a fight, anything can happen. There’s no 1,000 percent winning for anybody in this sport. I don’t care if you’re undefeated. It’s just a matter of time. I think Usman wins more times than Leon wins if they were to fight five times.”
Masvidal credited Edwards for his offensive talents but broke down why Usman was more likely to win.
“I think [Usman] is a little more complete, and at the end of the day, just the wrestling, it will come down to the wrestling,” Masvidal explained. “On the feet, Leon’s a little bit more polished, maybe a little bit more variety with setups or attacks, but Usman’s wrestling, I think he’ll keep Leon honest to where he won’t open up as he would with a lot of guys. I see Usman winning.”