A trilogy between UFC welterweight champ Leon Edwards and deposed titleholder Kamaru Usman is reportedly in the works for the U.K. But Edwards’ coach isn’t so sure Usman will be ready.
On a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Dave Lovell cast doubt on Usman’s ability to bounce back immediately after being brutally knocked out by Edwards in the fifth round of their title bout at UFC 278. And while he has no issue with the matchup, he’s skeptical about the timeline.
“If that’s the script, so be it,” Lovell said. “But you never know how these things work. There’s a lot of wheeling and dealing behind closed doors. We’re in a dirty game, and you’ve got to know to play your cards and keep them tight to your chest. You know, I know, they’re grearing up this Khamzat [Chimaev] guy – he’s their next cash cow, and they’re fast-tracking him. So listen, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to get Usman.
“Let’s not forget – I’ve heard a few people skirt around what I’m going to say, like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] mentioned some things – but Usman had a loss earlier in his career where he got choked out before he was in the UFC. He’s never been knocked out. It’s one thing a fighter getting dropped and getting counted out while he’s still conscious, or taken a body shot and couldn’t get up from it, or getting stopped on his feet with the referee pulled the other guy off him, but when you get knocked out in a fight where you just wake up and think, ‘What’s happened?’ Let me tell you, it’s a life-changing event, and I’m not just talking about fighting, I’m talking life itself.”
Although medical suspensions have not been released by the overseeing athletic commission for UFC 278, Usman likely faces a mandatory layoff of several months for the concussive loss; typically, fighters who lose consciousness receive a 60-day term.
Usman professed to be in good spirits after UFC 278 and praised the kick that felled him in the fifth round of a fight he was winning. He looked forward to a rematch with Edwards in a behind-the-scenes video that captured his immediate reaction to the loss.
Lovell, however, said the confident exterior of the former champ may fail to reveal a weakness.
“Usman is a bully-style fighter,” he said. “And when a bully gets knocked out, or hurt that way, that’ll always be in the computer, mate, regardless of what he wants to say.
“Does it change him? Does he now become gun-shy? Does he become more cautious. We don’t know. So when we’re talking Usman next, this is not a foregone conclusion or a guarantee. Let’s see physically if he can get back to where he needs to – and mentally.”
Edwards has welcomed the trilogy and asked it take place in his adopted home country of England. Lovell would like to see the new champ get a hometown welcome in Birmingham where both of them live.
“I know that they’re talking about Wembley,” Lovell said. “But listen, where we live, we’re a stone’s throw from our football ground, which is [Aston Arena], which can hold [approximately 42,000]. … I know Dana would entertain Wembley, London, the capital, but why not bring it to where we live in Birmingham in our underprivileged [city] and let some money spin and generate around our area. But that’s my opinion.”