UFC London: Mum's MMA intervention saved me from trouble - Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards
Leon edwards has won 16 of his 19 professional fights, with a record of eight wins and two losses in the UFC

West Midlands Police were regular visitors to the Edwards household.

A decade ago, by Leon Edwards' estimation, there wasn't much to do for teenagers in his part of Birmingham bar play football or cause trouble.

For him it was always the latter, until an intervention from his mum set him on the road to becoming a professional fighter.

She dragged him to the Ultimate Training Centre, a mixed martial arts gym close to their home in Erdington, and 10 years later both Leon and his younger brother Fabian are making careers out of the sport.

"Seventeen years old, every weekend I was getting in trouble and police were coming to the door," Edwards told BBC Sport. "When I was getting in trouble, Fabian was getting in trouble - whatever I did, he kind of copied.

"I didn't know what MMA was - it wasn't in my thoughts. Growing up in the UK you know about football and boxing. I didn't really look into MMA.

"My mum brought me to this gym just to keep me out of trouble. I ended up being good at it and here I am, top 10 in the world. It's been an amazing journey."

Although, don't expect her to watch her son in action.

"She loves it, but she can't watch it," said Edwards. "It's like her worst nightmare. She enjoys that we're doing it but she's never been to one of our fights. She's definitely proud of it."

The welterweight hopes his growing profile in the sport will continue to encourage youngsters to take part.

"It's grown so big in the UK over the last five years, especially in my city," said Edwards. "For me, coming from a bad neighbourhood, I'm able to show the kids there are other ways you can make a living.

"Now I have loads of kids from the neighbourhood all in the gym, coming every day and staying from morning until night. They're not hanging around on the streets.

"MMA gives you a certain kind of dedication. It's amazing to be able to do that and to be leading the pack in my city and inspiring the kids in my city."

And he would love to one day bring the promotion back to Birmingham for the first time since 2011.

"It has to happen, they have been everywhere around the UK," he said. "It would be madness - the city would love it.

"This many years on, to bring it back to my home town and to headline that bill in my home town, that would be like next to the world title for me.

"MMA now in Birmingham is booming. It's bigger than boxing now."

On Saturday, Edwards will fight Gunnar Nelson at the O2 Arena in the co-main event at UFC London.

But he does feel slightly aggrieved he is not headlining the card alongside Liverpool's Darren Till.

"I would have liked the fight, it made sense to me. Everyone on social media was screaming for that fight," he said.

It is also a gripe for the 27-year-old that those who shout loudest seem to create a bigger profile, and as a result land fights against higher-ranked opponents.

"Before it was number one fights number two, number three fights number four... it made sense. At the end of the day it's the entertainment business and we're here to entertain," he explained.

"Use Darren as an example, he had two or three fights and then he was fighting number one - 100% you leapfrog the division by talking rubbish. You move faster in the rankings."

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