Five of Leon Edwards’ last six scheduled UFC fights have been canceled. The latest in the string of cancelations that Edwards has experienced over the past few years is his UFC 262 (May 15th, 2021) matchup against MMA legend and UFC icon Nate Diaz.
The UFC 262 welterweight bout between Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz was set to make history, as it would’ve been the first non-title five-round co-main event in promotion history. Thankfully, the bout has been rescheduled to take place at UFC 263 (June 12th, 2021).
On that note, we take a detailed look at the fight cancelations that have befallen Leon Edwards in recent times.
Leon Edwards was one fight away from a shot at the UFC welterweight title in 2019
Leon Edwards picked up one of the biggest wins of his MMA career in the headlining fight of the UFC on ESPN: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards (July 20th, 2019) event.
Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos had moved up to welterweight and was one of the division’s top contenders when he fought Edwards. The RDA fight marked Leon Edwards’ eighth consecutive win. Edwards’ last defeat had come via unanimous decision against Kamaru Usman at UFC on FOX: Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone 2 (December 19th, 2015).
Usman subsequently went on to scale great heights in his career, capturing the UFC welterweight title in March 2019 and successfully defending it multiple times. Usman still holds the UFC welterweight title.
Similarly, Leon Edwards followed up his fight against Usman with a truly impressive run, amassing his much-discussed eight-fight win streak. ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ seemed to be destined to face one another in a rematch, this time with the latter’s UFC welterweight title on the line.
The consensus was that Leon Edwards likely needed just one more win before being handed the opportunity to face Kamaru Usman. However, a sequence of fight cancelations resulted in Edwards missing out on the coveted title shot not once but on multiple occasions.
Leon Edwards has faced five fight cancelations in his last six scheduled fights
Following his win over Rafael dos Anjos, Leon Edwards was set to compete in the first fight of his new multi-fight contract with the UFC. Edwards was booked to fight former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley at The O2 Arena in London, England at UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards (March 21st, 2020).
This was set to be Tyron Woodley’s first fight back after losing the title to Kamaru Usman in March 2019. Many believed that a win over Woodley in this fight would’ve earned Leon Edwards a title shot and a rematch against Usman.
Additionally, the event was set in the UK. It was expected to be the perfect showcase and star-making platform for British-Jamaican MMA stalwart Leon Edwards.
It was around this time that the COVID-19 pandemic had started wreaking havoc across the world. Resultantly, due to the travel restrictions, lockdowns, and other logistical issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided that the event would be moved from the UK to the US.
This was followed by multiple fights being canceled or postponed, as it was eventually revealed that the event won’t take place in the US either. The UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards event ended up being canceled, and Leon Edwards missed out on the opportunity to face Woodley.
Tyron Woodley subsequently faced Gilbert Burns, who defeated him via unanimous decision in May 2020. Burns thereby earned a shot at Kamaru Usman’s UFC welterweight title.
Meanwhile, the lengthy period of inactivity continued for Leon Edwards. What followed was a few more fight-cancelations involving Edwards and a certain ‘Borz’ aka ‘Chechen Wolf’.
The Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev story
While Leon Edwards found himself sidelined due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – quarantining in the UK and doing his best to keep training in the hope of getting a fight sooner rather than later – another talented fighter made a name for himself as one of the breakout UFC stars of 2020.
The breakout star was Khamzat Chimaev, a Russian-born Swedish MMA fighter. Born in Chechnya, Russia, this wrestling wunderkind took the UFC by storm in 2020, picking up three dominant wins, all by stoppage. Two of these wins came within 10 days of each other, whereas the third win was a terrifying 17-second KO of veteran fighter Gerald Meerschaert in a middleweight bout.
Khamzat Chimaev competed in both the welterweight and the middleweight divisions, and was expected to be the next big star for the UFC. The only thing missing from Chimaev’s resume was a win over a top-ranked UFC fighter. The Chechen Wolf was all but guaranteed a shot at the UFC welterweight title, provided he defeated a top 5-ranked fighter.
This is where the No. 3-ranked UFC welterweight Leon Edwards reentered the title picture. Edwards and Chimaev engaged in a war of words on social media, and the UFC ended up booking a fight between the two. The winner of this fight would’ve been given the next shot at the UFC welterweight title.
Prior to this fight being booked, Leon Edwards had briefly been removed from the UFC welterweight rankings due to inactivity. Regardless, Edwards was reinstated in his No. 3 spot on the rankings, and the fight with Chimaev was on.
Leon Edwards was scheduled to fight Khamzat Chimaev in a five-round welterweight bout that was set to headline UFC Fight Night 183 (December 19th, 2020). On November 29th, 2020, news broke that Chimaev had contracted COVID-19. A couple of days later, on December 1st, 2020, it was revealed that Edwards too had contracted COVID-19.
The MMA community was rife with rumors regarding Leon Edwards’ case being quite serious, as he’d purportedly lost 12 pounds due to COVID-19. Needless to say, the fight was scrapped from the UFC Fight Night 183 card.
The Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev matchup was later rescheduled and was supposed to headline UFC Fight Night 185 (January 20th, 2021). However, on December 29th, 2020, Khamzat Chimaev withdrew from the fight, as he was still suffering from health issues related to COVID-19.
The MMA world still hoped to see the duo fight, as the UFC rescheduled the fight again. The fight was booked for the third time, with the Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev matchup set to headline UFC Fight Night 187 (March 13th, 2021).
On February 11th, 2021, the UFC officially confirmed that Khamzat Chimaev had once again withdrawn from the fight. Chimaev was still dealing with health issues related to COVID-19.
Thankfully, the UFC roped in welterweight mainstay Belal Muhammad, who stepped in on short notice to fight Leon Edwards. Edwards finally made it to the octagon at UFC Fight Night 187 and faced off against Muhammad in a five-round welterweight bout that headlined the event.
The fight ended in a rather anticlimactic fashion, however, as an eye-poke from Edwards rendered Muhammad unable to continue in round two. Much to the chagrin of Edwards, his long-awaited return to the octagon ended in a No Contest (NC).
Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz and Belal Muhammad vs. Demian Maia will take place at UFC 263
Both Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad expressed their disappointment with the outcome. While the duo agreed with one another in this regard, disagreement over their next move resulted in them getting into a war of words on social media.
Edwards claimed that he’d dominated Muhammad in round one, and although the fight ended in an NC, he’d still done more than enough to earn a title shot. On the contrary, Muhammad criticized Edwards and demanded that he face him in an immediate rematch.
In the ensuing days, both Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad ended up being booked in separate bouts at separate events. Intriguingly, they’ll now be fighting at the same event!
Confused? Don’t be. Yet another series of twists and turns in Leon Edwards’ story led to him and Belal Muhammad being booked on the same fight card, UFC 263 to be specific.
Here’s how that came to be…
As noted, Leon Edwards was campaigning for a title shot right after the Belal Muhammad fight. The UFC and reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman didn’t go with Edwards, as Usman was booked to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 (April 24th, 2021).
This left Leon Edwards without an opponent, and given the amount of time he’d spent on the sidelines, Edwards refused to once again fall victim to the bane of inactivity. ‘Rocky’ took aim at Nate Diaz on social media and challenged the latter to a fight, only to be turned down by Diaz.
Now, while Nate Diaz initially seemed uninterested in facing Leon Edwards, the MMA world was set abuzz in late March 2021 by the news that Diaz would be making his long-awaited return to the octagon against Edwards.
This fight was supposed to serve as the co-main event at UFC 262 (May 15th, 2021), with the main event being a five-round lightweight bout between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler for the vacant UFC lightweight title.
Well, it’s now been revealed that Nate Diaz suffered a minor injury due to which his welterweight bout against Leon Edwards has been scrapped from the UFC 262 fight card. This marks the fifth time in the last six scheduled Leon Edwards fights that the bout has been canceled.
The Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz matchup has now been rescheduled for UFC 263 (June 12th, 2021) and is still set to be a five-round non-title co-main event. Coincidentally, another fight that’d already been booked for UFC 263 was a welterweight bout between Leon Edwards’ last opponent, Belal Muhammad, and BJJ legend Demian Maia.
Leon Edwards will face Nate Diaz, whereas Belal Muhammad will face Demian Maia at UFC 263. The UFC 263 fight card will be headlined by a UFC middleweight title fight between reigning champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Marvin Vettori.
Israel Adesanya had previously defeated Marvin Vettori via split decision in their first fight at UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje (April 2018). The UFC 263 fight card headlined by Adesanya and Vettori will take place at the same venue – the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, where their first fight at UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje took place.
UFC 263 is scheduled to transpire on June 12th, 2021. Apart from the aforementioned title fight, the event will feature the highly anticipated comeback of Nate Diaz, who hasn’t competed since November 2019. It’ll also see Leon Edwards return to the octagon and try to break the odd series of events that have kept him away from a shot at UFC gold.
Which fighter do you see emerging victorious in the Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz matchup at UFC 263? Sound off in the comments.