Leon Edwards is set for an emotional homecoming as he defends his welterweight title against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in London.
The 31-year-old made history by becoming just the second British champion in UFC history last August when he defeated Usman in a thrilling five rounder that saw him knock out Usman with a leg kick.
Leon Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, before moving to the Aston area of Birmingham, England, at the age of nine. In a deeply personal letter published in ESPN, Edwards revealed that his formative years in London gave him his nickname.
“There was the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys. They were rivals, and violence constantly broke out between both sides. I fell in with the younger kids.”
“I didn’t plan to get into a gang. It’s just what you did. It was a means of survival.”
“People don’t understand that your options are limited when you don’t know any better.”
“It was mostly fighting. I fought to defend friends, I fought to intimidate and I fought because of beefs. I fought all the time.”
“That’s why my nickname is ‘Rocky’. I got that from school. That’s before I got into MMA. I got it just from scrapping in the streets.”
Growing up in the midst of a constant turf war between the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys, Edwards fell in with the younger kids and ended up getting involved in the life and crime. His father tragically passed when he was just 14 years old, which pushed him further into the negative aspects of his environment.
Despite all of this, Edwards found solace in martial arts. He scrappedto defend his friends, intimidate his enemies, and simply because of beefs. That earned him the nickname ‘Rocky’ in school, long before he ever stepped into the octagon.
Despite his turbulent youth, Leon Edwards found his way to mixed martial arts and quickly made a name for himself on the British circuit. He earned a shot at the UFC in 2014 but was ultimately unsuccessful in his debut against Claudio Silva.
Undeterred, Edwards continued to train and hone his skills, racking up a string of impressive victories in the UFC’s welterweight division. He even avenged his loss to Silva in 2018 with a unanimous decision victory.
In 2020, Edwards faced another setback when his scheduled outing against Tyron Woodley was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he refused to let this setback derail his career and returned to the octagon in style with a unanimous decision victory over Belal Muhammad in March 2021.
Since 2014, Benny A. King has been fully immersed in the world of combat sports. Starting with a blog about Greco Roman wrestling, Benny’s passion for combat sports has led him to explore various disciplines.