Coronavirus didn’t hit at a good time for anyone, but it was particularly bad timing for Leon Edwards.
The UFC welterweight contender was gearing up for the biggest fight of his MMA career, as he was scheduled to take on former champion Tyron Woodley in the headlining act of UFC London.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic denied Edwards (18-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) the opportunity to pick up the biggest win of his career.
The UFC was forced to cancel Saturday’s planned event, but not before trying to salvage the bout by moving it to the U.S. after the U.K. banned all public gatherings.
Although the UFC tried to get Edwards into the U.S., it just simply wasn’t an option for the British fighter since Europe faced travel bans from U.S. efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“I talked to my coaches, what they think about it, what should I do, and everyone is like, ‘It just wasn’t possible to do,’” Edwards told ESPN on Tuesday. “I had three or four hours to get to the airport, get to London. There was just too much going on, we didn’t even know were we were going.
“No guarantee I could go back to the U.K. because the reason I had to leave on Sunday was because on Monday the ban was coming in, so we had to leave Sunday – that was the rush – in like two or four hours. It was impossible.”
Looking back, Edwards is glad he didn’t fly to the U.S. to try to keep his bout with Woodley alive, as the UFC went on to cancel the card due to similar public restrictions issued by governing bodies across the U.S.
“On Monday, we find out the whole card has been canceled, plus another two events,” Edwards said. “So imagine if I would’ve gone to the States, now I would’ve been stuck in the States. I would’ve dragged my coaches away from their family, and we would’ve been stuck somewhere in the states, and we would’ve not been able to get back, so it is what it is: God’s plan.”
Although Edwards is happy he dodged a bullet by staying in the U.K., he still feels upset at losing the Woodley bout in the meantime. It was a date he was looking forward to making.
“This is one the biggest fights of my career; I’ve been dreaming of headlining in my hometown, in my home country, since the start of MMA,” Edwards said. “So to get an opportunity to headline London and to have it taken away from me, I was devastated all day Sunday, yesterday. I was devastated. I’ve worked for 10 weeks, I spent a lot of money in camp. I was fit, I was ready, I was focused, and I was ready to go. To have it taken away from me last minute – I just had to do the weight cut – and have it taken away from me, I was just devastated.”
Woodley has shown interest in taking other fights now that UFC London is canceled, especially with longtime rival Colby Covington – who’s also itching to fight.
Edwards is not concerned of losing the Woodley matchup and sees Woodley’s interest to move on from their bout as a sign of avoiding the fight.
“At the end of the day, he didn’t want to fight me,” Edwards said. “He’s made every excuse in the book to not want to fight me. He knows what’s going to happen, you know what I mean? As soon as he got the opportunity to run, he ran straight away.
“This fight is not going nowhere. Hopefully it gets rescheduled. Hopefully again back in London, in my home country, so I can show the world that I am the best in the world.”