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Leon Edwards says sorry Belal, but ‘I believe I deserve a title shot next’

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Following a disappointing ‘No Contest’ in the main event of UFC Vegas 21, Leon Edwards is still pushing hard for a fight with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

UFC Fight Night: Edwards v Muhammad Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After more than 1.5 years away from the Octagon because of a terrible combination of pickiness, COVID-19 and bad luck, Leon Edwards returned at UFC Vegas 21 last night (March 13, 2021) to fight Belal Muhammad. That fight lasted all of five minutes and 18 seconds before an eye poke (Edwards’ second of the fight) sent Muhammad to the canvas screaming in agony (watch the “highlight” here).

The official ruling: “No Contest.” The unofficial sentiment: a terrible accident, just one of those things that happens in mixed martial arts (MMA) sometimes.

“I wish Belal nothing but a full recovery, obviously,” Edwards said at the post-fight press conference. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean it. So ... I wish him nothing but a full recovery.”

But, if you’re thinking Edwards is looking to set up a rematch to right the situation, you’d be wrong.

“I don’t feel I need to fight him again,” he said later. “I only fought him because all the other guys turned me down. The writing was on the wall. I was winning the fight clearly. And I don’t feel I need to fight him again. I need to move forward. I’m on an eight fight win streak. That’s the third most in the promotion’s history. It’s me, Usman and GSP. I feel like I’ve earned my way for a big fight.”

UFC President, Dana White, had said Edwards would earn a title shot off a spectacular win, but this doesn’t feel like it fits either descriptor. The general temperature we took from fans on social media and forums was pretty chilly toward the idea as well. One simply does not eye poke their way into a title shot ... accidental or not.

Edwards did look extremely impressive in the first round, though. And given the way the Muhammad fight came together as a desperation booking to finally get Edwards in the cage, we suppose we could see UFC putting in a different opponent if poor Belal is going to be out a while waiting for his eye to recover.

A name thrown out by the press as an option for Edwards was Colby Covington, who happens to be one of the two fighters above Edwards in the Welterweight rankings.

“That’s there, I can do it. But I belong in a title shot,” Edwards replied. “I’ve worked my way back up from last getting defeated by Kamaru Usman. I have fought everybody. I have offered to fight everybody. I feel I deserve a title shot now. Why should I go another 10 fights to get a title shot? I believe I deserve a title shot next.”

Well, no one is asking Leon to go 10 more fights. But, a single official win in 18 months is a reasonable ask. If Covington remains as reluctant to get into the cage as he’s seemed since taking out Tyron Woodley in Sept. 2020, we imagine there’s another choice that could work: Gilbert Burns, who just happens to be the other fighter above Edwards in the rankings. We’re sure he’d love to get back into the hunt for the title himself with someone as highly ranked as Edwards.

For complete UFC Vegas 21: “Edwards vs. Muhammad” results and play-by-play, click HERE!