Newly-crowned welterweight champion Leon Edwards defeated Kamaru Usman in the UFC 278 pay-per-view (PPV) main event earlier this month in Salt Lake City, delivering a fifth-round “Hail Mary” that put “The Nigerian Nightmare” flat on his back.
But the fight may have ended much sooner if Edwards hadn’t cheated, former middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen told his YouTube subscribers. In addition, the outspoken “American Gangster” insists the “cheating” happened “a whole bunch of times.”
“There’s a lot more in Leon versus Usman and nobody spoke of it,” Sonnen said (transcribed by MMA News). “Kamaru is apparently too much of a gentleman to, in conjunction with it appears Kamaru is going to get the rematch so there is no need for it. But Leon cheated in that match a whole bunch of times. That is not a headline or a topic that is out there anywhere, I do not want to be the one to bring that to you.”
Usman (20-2) had long dominated the welterweight division and already holds a previous victory over Edwards (20-3, 1 NC), which is why the promotion is excepted to green-light an immediate rubber match for some point in early 2023, possibly in London.
“I’m a guy that operates in the grey, I’m not giving him a hard time,” Sonnen continued. “For the story to be told accurately, nobody’s wanting to touch that. Leon was frustrated in positions and had no way out of positions to the extent that he cheated repeatedly, not once, not an accident, not the ref didn’t see it, the ref broke the act five or six times.”
Outside of Sonnen, there has been little talk of Edwards’ performance leading up to the fifth-round finish. In fact, the most traction that journey received came courtesy of cageside analyst Din Thomas, thanks to these incendiary comments.
“So now you’re in a fifth round that you never should’ve been in potentially, you take a kick in a fight that you were winning, that you were trying to finish, and you had the position you needed to get said finish and the opponent cheated three times,” Sonnen said. “Leon learned a lot in this fight. When Leon goes to prepare for Kamaru again, he’s going to have some confidence. It’s a strong word to say cheated, but what other word do you want to use?”
Edwards has yet to comment.