British fighter Tom Aspinall needed little over a minute to become the UFC interim heavyweight champion, despite having just two weeks to get ready for his bout with Sergei Pavlovich.

The 30-year-old knocked out his Russian opponent in just 69 seconds with a punishing series of blows at UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden.

Aspinall, who becomes just the third Briton to become UFC world champion, only got the call-up for the fight on October 25 after defending champion Jon Jones suffered a serious injury and pulled out of his contest against Stipe Miocic.

The Salford fighter said on TNT Sports: “It has been a crazy two and a half weeks.

“I want to tell everyone at home, If you ever get the chance to do something and you’re scared to do it, you should just do it.

“He’s a scary guy. I’ve never been so scared in my life but I have power too and I believed in myself.

“I’ve worked so hard over the years and no one has worked harder than my father so this belt is dedicated to him.

“I was struggling with the distance a little bit but we got there in the end.”

Tyson Fury has no chance of losing to Francis Ngannou in the pair's exhibition fight this weekend.

That is according to former boxer turned promoter Oscar De La Hoya, who promised to quit his job if Ngannou pulls off a shock victory.

MMA fighter Ngannou, who has won 17 of his 20 professional fights, is making the move into boxing to face WBC heavyweight champion Fury in a lucrative exhibition bout in Saudi Arabia.

De La Hoya, though, is giving Ngannou little hope.

"As a boxing expert, as a fight expert, as a promoter now and as a boxing historian, if Ngannou beats Tyson Fury then I'll quit my job," De La Hoya told Stats Perform.

"And I love boxing, so I don't plan on quitting! 

"I think Tyson, inside a boxing ring, he's been in there with [Wladimir] Klitschko, he's been in there with [Deontay] Wilder, there's nothing that Ngannou can do to even make Tyson flinch. It's not going to be a good night for Ngannou."

Hall of Fame fighter De La Hoya is promoting Ryan Garcia, with whom he has had something of a complicated relationship. 

Garcia is going up against Oscar Duarte, and like his promoter, he does not see Ngannou having a chance against Fury, hitting out at the "crossover" fight.

"I'm sorry, I don't want to be disrespectful, but I don't see any reality where Ngannou wins," Garcia told Stats Perform.

"There's just no way. I'm a big fan of Fury and I think he's just an unbelievable fighter. He's beaten the best in boxing.

"I'm not going to think that a UFC guy is going to come in and beat him. It's just fun for the fans, man. 

"It's like these crossover TV shows where you get to watch your favourite cartoon being in another cartoon. That's all."

Tyson Fury has vowed to deliver UFC fighter Francis Ngannou his first knockout blow when they go toe to toe in Riyadh on Saturday night.

Heavyweight champion Fury will contest a 35th career bout this weekend, but his WBC title will not be on the line against Ngannou for the 10-round fight.

Fury is set for a long-anticipated undisputed heavyweight showdown with Oleksandr Usyk on December 23, which is also scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia.

First, though, Fury intends to dispatch boxing novice Ngannou, who left the UFC after the end of his contract, a last fight coming in January 2022, before signing up with the Professional Fighters League from 2024.

Trainer SugarHill Steward admitted preparing Fury to take on the Mixed Martial Arts fighter was one of the hardest camps, given they just do not know what to expect from Ngannou.

Fury, though, is confident of what the final outcome will be.

“I have been working with SugarHill to knock him out cold on Sunday night. I have no doubt in my mind that I will knock him out,” Fury said.

“He is a big strong guy. Obviously he has got a good punch, powerful – but so am I. I’m a big strong guy obviously powerful or else I would not be world heavyweight champion.

“I believe there is levels to the game – and he is going to find out my level on Saturday night.”

Fury added: “I have trained for a 12-round war, and if it is anything less it is going to be an early night.

“I’ve been hit by the biggest punches that have ever graced the face of the earth and I’m still undefeated, still standing and I am still number one.

“We are going to see what Francis has got inside of him, see if he’s got the guts to stand and trade with the heavyweight champion of the world and if he has got the belief in his power.

“I’m not convinced. I have heard all this talk before about power, so I’m looking forward to a challenge – and if it is not a challenge, I’ll be disappointed, put in that way.

“I am going to knock that big stiff spark out – and there is nothing he can do about it, no matter who he trains with, no matter who he brings on the night.

“That right hand is going to detonate right in your face, you big ugly dosser.”

During the pre-fight build-up Fury accused Ngannou of being “embarrassed” of his own body.

Fury again goaded the 37-year-old as a “big fat sausage” in Thursday’s media conference ahead of the ‘Battle of the Baddest’.

Cameroon-born Ngannou, though, is fully intent on showing Fury just what he can deliver in a boxing ring rather than the UFC Octagon.

“It might be a little weird, but I really also want to thank Tyson Fury for taking the fight, for taking the risk because he might go to sleep on Saturday night, so I appreciate his courage,” Ngannou said.

Mike Tyson is part of Ngannou’s camp, and enjoyed a verbal sparing with John Fury which saw the 59-year-old Briton challenge the former heavyweight champion to a showdown, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s contest for his son.

Tyson admitted he was not sure what to make of Ngannou’s boxing ability, until he saw him in close quarters.

“At first when this came to me, I said ‘there’s no way this is going to happen’,” Tyson said.

“Then I watched him spar and he hit this guy and he broke his leg when he went down – and I said ‘man, there is a possibility something good could happen here’.

“I have never seen anything like that before. If he could do that man, he could possibly be heavyweight champion of the world.”

Conor McGregor took another step towards returning to UFC by re-entering the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USASA) testing programme.

The 35-year-old has not fought in the Octagon since July 2021 when he was beaten by Dustin Poirier for a second time and suffered a broken leg.

He has been out of the USADA testing pool since, but the agency announced he has re-entered.

It said in a statement: “We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023.

“We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months.

“The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.”

‘The Notorious’ has been rumoured to fight Michael Chandler before the end of the year but that will not happen until April 2024 at the earliest due to USADA’s rules.

Former UFC champion Francis Ngannou is "crazy" for agreeing to switch to boxing for October's bout with Tyson Fury, according to unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields.

Ngannou, who relinquished his UFC Heavyweight title as part of his move to the Professional Fighters League (PFL) earlier this year, will make his professional boxing debut against the WBC Heavyweight champion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 28.

Fury's decision to face the unranked Ngannou has been criticised by many boxing fans after the Gypsy King failed to reach an agreement on a unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk earlier this year.

Shields made the opposite switch from boxing to mixed martial arts in 2021 and has a 1-1 PFL record, meaning she is well-versed in the differences between the disciplines. 

Ngannou will be a huge underdog when he steps into the ring for the first time, and while Shields is excited to see him in such a high-profile fight, she knows he is at a major disadvantage.

"It's going to be very interesting fight," Shields told Stats Perform. "Francis left UFC because of low pay. He wasn't being paid properly as a champion, which I felt terrible for – he had a couple of injuries and everything. 

"I think him coming to the PFL, they can offer him a nice cheque and really honour that he was a UFC champion and that he's going to work hard to be PFL champion. 

"I'm happy that Francis is getting his just [reward], fighting against Tyson Fury in boxing. I think he's just so crazy. 

"All the girls in MMA, I think, are very, very smart. If they were to come to box me inside the ring, I would destroy them, truth be told." 

Ngannou is, however, known for his punching power and is being trained for the bout by Mike Tyson, which Shields hopes may help the Cameroon-born fighter keep things interesting. 

"Francis has great hands, but in boxing and in MMA, distancing and everything is completely different," she added.

"I just feel like I just want to see it. I'm excited about it, and Francis is training with Mike Tyson, so we may see some things we weren't expecting to see. 

"I just know that Tyson Fury is a really great boxer. He's strong and I believe Tyson's going to win the fight, but I can't wait to see what Francis does to move from the cage."

Fury has previously discussed the idea of competing in MMA, but Shields is sceptical, adding: "I heard Tyson talking about it, but I don't think he would get inside the cage. 

"Inside the cage, under MMA rules, he gets kicked, [opponents] take you down to the ground and knee you and things like that. I just don't see Fury doing it. But he's crazy, so you never know."

Elsewhere, Anthony Joshua says "positive" talks have taken place over a heavyweight meeting with Deontay Wilder following the Brit's one-punch knockout of Robert Helenius earlier this month.

While Shields is fond of both fighters, she feels compelled to back fellow American Wilder if the bout is made.

"I am a fan of both," she said. "Deontay Wilder's like a big brother to me and Anthony Joshua's the heavyweight I have a crush on because he is so gorgeous! 

"But it has to be the American Deontay. Even though I think Joshua has better skill, I think Deontay Wilder has just got dynamite in both hands and we've seen Joshua get knocked out before. 

"I know I'm going to be cheering for Deontay Wilder, he's like my brother."

Amanda Nunes has retired after defending her world bantamweight belt against Irene Aldana at UFC 289 in Vancouver.

The Brazilian, who also held the featherweight title, won on a unanimous points decision at Rogers Arena and after placing her belts on the canvas, announced she was calling time on her career.

She said in her octagon interview:  “Double champion forever, today is a perfect night to retire.

“My mum has been watching me do this for so long, she cannot take it anymore. So I decided, I am still young to enjoy everything I make.

“I never worked out in my mind that I would become a champion and when I did it was unbelievable.”

Nunes, 35, dominated the octagon over a lengthy career, and is the first woman to become a champion in two divisions. She is the only fighter to defend two titles while holding them both.

Saturday’s bout was supposed to be against Julianna Pena but the former champion withdrew due to injury.

Nunes’ victory over Aldana means she walks away with a 23-5 record and is widely regarded as the greatest ever women’s mixed martial artist.

Leon Edwards suspects Colby Covington is jealous of him as the UFC welterweight champion insisted any fight between the pair will only happen on his terms.

Covington has twice come up short when fighting for the 170lb title after losing on both occasions to Kamaru Usman, who Edwards dethroned as the division’s kingpin last August and then beat again in March.

Despite Covington’s most recent contest being in March last year, the American, who weighed in as the back-up option for Edwards-Usman II, has been installed as the Birmingham fighter’s next opponent.

Covington was indignant a July date in London was a non-starter for Edwards, who believes he has taken some of his rival’s star power and is adamant any future foe will have to dance to his tune.

Edwards told the PA news agency: “They were saying if Kamaru wasn’t champion, it would be Colby. That was the narrative he was trying to push but then when I went out there and did what I did, now I think the jealousy is coming in.

“Within a week (of beating Usman the second time), Colby was like ‘you need to fight me’. I was like ‘chill out’. It goes off my timing, I don’t work off him. He’s the contender, I’m the champion.

“He’s trying to fool everyone, like everything goes off what he says but it doesn’t. We’re still figuring out the next step and I’ll let him know when I’m ready.

“I’ve worked hard to be in this position to be able to call the shots and who I fight and when I fight. Now I’m here I should be able to dictate within reason who goes next and who makes the most sense.”

Covington’s recent inactivity – he has fought just three times since December 2019 and both his wins have come against now-retired fighters – meant Edwards was initially resistant to a showdown.

Edwards now seems to have warmed to the idea following Covington’s trash-talking and has his sights set on the fight taking place at UFC 294, which is set to take place on October 21 in Abu Dhabi.

Edwards said: “He’s definitely at the top of the list as far as who’s next. I just want to fight him because I don’t like him so that will be even more fuel for me in training.

“I think he’s a weirdo. He’s an alright fighter. But look at his resume compared to my resume.

“He hasn’t beaten anyone in the top five, he’s fought people at the back end of their careers and his last five fights are win-lose-win-lose-win, it’s not consistent.”

Edwards is unbeaten in his last 12 fights – with 11 wins and one no-contest against Belal Muhammad, who is also in the frame for a title shot after beating Gilbert Burns earlier this month.

Edwards said: “As far as skill-sets go, I truly don’t believe (Belal) is on my level. He’s a good fighter but I feel there are two different levels between me and him.

“I want to fight them all one day. They’re all similar fights, wrestling-based kind of guys. There’s no trickiness with the opponents.”

The Jamaica-born 31-year-old will be swapping the octagon for the football pitch after signing up for Soccer Aid at Old Trafford on June 11, where he will be in goal for a World XI against England.

The opportunity to be on the same team as Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and play against Paul Scholes is a dream come true for Edwards, who lived in the shadow of Villa Park when he first moved to the UK with his family aged nine.

He added: “To be able to share the pitch with people like that, for a kid like me it’s a dream come true. It’s a bucket list moment for me and my friends and team are excited.”

:: Tickets for Soccer Aid For UNICEF on Sunday 11th June 2023 are now on sale via www.socceraid.org.uk/tickets with a family of four able to attend for just £60 – two adults and two children

Jamaican Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Randy “Rude boy” Brown will open a new five-fight deal with the promotion with a bout against Brazilian Wellington Turman.

This fight will be the first of a new five-fight deal Brown signed with the UFC after his last fight, a submission loss to Australian Jack Della Maddalena at UFC 284 in February.

“Just one of those things where I had one fight left on my contract and the company decided that they need to re-sign me,” Brown told SportsMax.TV.

“The price that they wanted to re-sign me at wasn’t right initially so we did some negotiating back and forth and settled on a deal in the middle that everybody was happy about,” he added.

The 32-year-old will take on Brazil’s Turman at UFC on ABC 5 on June 24th at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

Turman, 26, currently has an MMA record of 18-6 and a UFC record of 3-4.

Brown, whose record now stands at 16-5, says he has already started preparation for the bout.

“I started camp probably about three weeks ago. So far, it has been great,” he said.

Jake Paul has lined up former UFC man Nate Diaz as his next opponent following his split-decision loss to Tommy Fury.

The former social media personality will face the MMA veteran in an eight-round cruiserweight bout at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on August 5.

Paul, who lost his previously unbeaten status against Fury in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, stands at a 6-1 record with four knockouts.

Diaz, who famously inflicted Conor McGregor to a first loss during his UFC days, is a 21-time winner in MMA but will make his professional boxing debut in Texas.

The pair's fight comes amid an escalating war of words between the two over recent months, and will see Paul sidestep a potential bout with fellow media personality-turned-boxer KSI.

The Briton previously defeated the American's brother Logan in his only professional fight in 2019, but Paul says he desires to test himself further after defeat to Fury.

"My last fight didn't end the way I wanted, but the result was the best thing that could have happened to my professional boxing aspirations," Paul said in a statement.

"Now, the world thinks I am vulnerable, when all I am is more focused than ever. My team wanted me to take an easy fight like KSI next, but that's not how I am built.

"Nate Diaz is considered one of the most bad-ass fighters of all time, but he and his team have been running their mouths for too long."

Diaz likewise threw down the gauntlet, adding: "I'm the king of combat sports. I f***** up Conor for acting out and now here I am again, like a superhero."

Israel Adesanya exacted some revenge on Alex Pereira with a brutal second-round knockout victory in Saturday's UFC 287 main event in Miami.

Adesanya floored the Brazilian at 4:21 in the second round in their middleweight fight, having come into the contest 0-3 against Pereira in their previous kickboxing and MMA bouts. Among those losses was a fifth-round TKO at UFC 281.

Pereira started well with Adesanya up against the cage, but the Nigerian responded emphatically, countering with some massive right-hand hits.

The Brazilian was hurt but finally put down by Adesanya with a left hook, before pummelling him with a hammer fist leading to referee Dan Miragliotta's intervention with Pereira unconscious.

"They say revenge is sweet," Adesanya said. "If you know me I've got a sweet tooth... you already know, this is f***ing sweet."

Adesanya, who said he was "playing possum" with Pereira early, was delighted to re-claim the middleweight belt.

"Alex is a great champion no matter what," Adesanya said. "He lost the belt tonight, but he’ll always be the champion. In his story I’m the antagonist, in his story I’m the bad guy but tonight it’s my story. History.

"I told you the hunter is now the hunted. Thank you for beating me. Beating me made me a better fighter, a better person. In this camp I didn’t f*** around. I stayed in the grind and put myself through it."

In the co-main event, Gilbert Burns beat Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in the welterweight division.

Burns, who trains in Florida, was the clear winner, with Masvidal declaring after the bout that he would retire.

UFC and WWE will merge under one name after the former's parent group Endeavor confirmed they would combine with the latter in a deal worth $21 billion.

The two promotion companies will form a new, publicly listed organisation which will unite them beneath one banner, with Endeavor set for a 51 per cent controlling interest and existing WWE shareholders at 49 per cent.

The news comes in the wake of WWE's latest edition of its flagship event, Wrestlemania, and will see a significant shake-up among key personnel at the top.

Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, who will expand his position while WWE majority owner Vince McMahon becomes executive chairman, believes both organisations can grow from their unification.

"This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed," he said in a statement.

"For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation.

"We are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together."

McMahon, who stepped down as WWE CEO last year, echoed his colleague's sentiments, adding that he thinks the merger is "without a doubt the best outcome for our shareholders and other stakeholders".

"Together, we will be a $21-plus billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people and an exciting growth opportunity," he added.

"I, along with the current WWE management team, look forward to working closely with Ari and the Endeavor and UFC teams to take the businesses to the next level."

Nick Khan will be president of the WWE brand, while Dana White will continue in his role as UFC president.

There is a common saying that you’re not a true champion until you defend your title.

Well, if that’s the case, Leon "Rocky" Edwards can now officially call himself a UFC champion.

The 31-year-old Kingston-born British fighter, now 21-3 (1) in MMA, successfully defended his UFC Welterweight title with a majority decision win over Nigerian former Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 at the O2 Arena in London over the weekend.

It was Edwards’ second straight win over Usman, who, before their last fight, was on a 19-fight win streak. That streak included a unanimous decision victory over Edwards back in 2015.

With that being said, their chapter appears to be closed with the question now being: who is next for Leon Edwards?

One good thing about being a UFC champion is that there’s never a shortage of opponents to choose from. In some cases, fighters even get to select who they want to defend their title against, no matter how deserving they truly are of that shot.

Edwards made his attempt at this when, in his post-fight press conference, he called out veteran Jorge Masvidal (35-16) who Edwards had a viral run-in with back in 2019.

On that fateful night, interestingly at the same venue where Edwards defended his title, Masvidal, after knocking out British Welterweight Darren Till in the second round of their main event, was giving an interview backstage after the fight.

Edwards, who was also victorious on the night after securing a split decision win over Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson, made some comments while walking past Masvidal during interview before telling the Miami native to “shut up.”

Masvidal then made his way over to Edwards and the two got into an altercation, with the former landing several unanswered punches to Edwards, who declined to press charges.

Two years later, the pair were scheduled to fight, officially this time, at UFC 269 in Las Vegas before Masvidal pulled out and the bout was scrapped.

Since the incident, their careers have gone on two different paths. Edwards just defended his title and has won four of five fights, with one no contest, while Masvidal is 2-3 in his last five fights, including three straight losses. Two of those came against Usman while his last came against Colby Covington, the man who UFC President Dana White has said is next for Edwards.

Masvidal is currently ninth in the UFC Welterweight rankings and will need to beat number five-ranked Brazilian Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 next month for the UFC to even consider booking him against Edwards for the Welterweight belt.

Another contender for Edwards’ next fight is the aforementioned Colby Covington. Covington, 35, is a former Interim UFC Welterweight champion and is currently the number two-ranked Welterweight contender.

He is 2-2 in his last four fights with both losses coming in title fights against Usman. Covington, 17-3 in MMA, also weighed in as the back-up fighter for Saturday’s title fight between Edwards and Usman, signaling that he may be next in line for a title shot.

The other two main contenders are Khamzat Chimaev and Belal Muhammad.

Chimaev, ranked number three, is a Swedish wrecking ball who is currently 12-0 that could be fast-tracked to a title fight despite having only one win against a ranked fighter in the UFC. Him versus Edwards is unlikely as he is currently contemplating a move up to middleweight.

Muhammad, 22-3 in MMA, could very well have the best argument for a fight with Edwards based on merit. The 34-year-old is ranked number four and is currently on a nine-fight unbeaten streak including eight wins and one no contest.

Remember the no contest for Edwards? It came against Muhammad when they fought in a UFC Fight Night main event back in March 2021.

Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye in the second round leaving the latter unable to continue. It was determined that the poke was accidental by the referee, meaning, instead of a Muhammad win by disqualification, it was ruled a no contest. Perhaps those two could run it back with the belt on the line.

In the end, whether it’s Edwards vs Masvidal, Edwards vs Covington, Edwards vs Chimaev or Edwards vs Muhammad 2, we will all be watching. 

 

 

On September 6, 2022, US Virgin Islands born fighter Karl Williams competed on Week 7 of Dana White’s Contender Series, a platform where fighters do battle to earn a UFC contract.

The 33-year-old heavyweight was able to secure a unanimous decision win over American Jimmy Lawson and secure a contract with the world’s biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion.

On March 11, Williams won his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 221-Yan vs Dvalishvili.

He was able to dominate 30-year-old Polish fighter Lukasz Brzeski on the way to a unanimous decision win.

“Have fun and see where it goes,” was the game plan for the fight according to Williams.

“I wanted to come up with a game plan but I decided to just go out there and have fun. I prepared for everything so I just saw what he gave me and enjoyed,” he added.

Williams, who now boasts an 8-1 record in professional MMA, was born in the US Virgin Islands and now lives and trains in Atlanta.

With regards to his UFC debut, Williams says he was in awe.

“It was everything and more. I’m sitting in front of all these cameras. People aren’t going to see what I’m seeing, but this is amazing. The crowd, the people backstage, everything in the UFC leading up to this was just wonderful.”

Williams, who has competed at light-heavyweight (205 pounds) in the past, signaled his intentions to remain at heavyweight and return to the octagon as soon as possible.

“Not at all,” was his response to the media’s questions about a possible return to light heavyweight.

“The best thing about the UFC is having the performance institute (P.I.). Right after my fight on the Contender Series, I was staying here (in Las Vegas) to corner Chris Barnett and I went to the P.I. for a week and did all these tests. I was 237 thinking I was fat and out of shape. Then, when I went there and did a DEXA scan (scan to test bone density), they told me I had a lot of muscle so it would be hard for me to get down to 205. So, I took the easy way out and said I’ll just stay at heavyweight.”

 

Leon Edwards successfully defended the welterweight title as he claimed a majority decision victory in a pulsating rematch with Kamaru Usman at UFC 286.

Edwards had stunned Usman with a fifth-round knockout win at UFC 278 last August, with Saturday's clash marking their third meeting. Usman won the first in 2015.

His first title defence at London's O2 Arena was extremely close, but Edwards displayed the greater energy and precision to delight the home crowd and retain the title.

"He didn't get any takedowns I was landing cleaner shots. I took out his legs," Edwards told BT Sport. "Thanks to Kamaru for being a great competitor.

"I couldn't get the kick around his head. He had the perfect defence. I was trying to set it up with kicks to the body and legs.

"I know it was a close fight so I knew I had to land the cleaner shots. He didn't land many clean on me. He just had lots of pressure."

Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns will face off next month in a bout in Miami that could decide Edwards' next challenger.

"I might take a little trip to Miami and see what's going on there," added Edwards.

Usman, meanwhile, was gracious in defeat but indicated he would eventually like another shot at Edwards.

"I think I did enough to win the fight but I knew it was close," he said.

"He had a great gameplan. I always said from the start we'd meet again and I'm not done. We will see each other again.

"I always gave him props for what he's accomplished. He's a brother like myself and great respect. London you've got yourself a great champion."

Earlier, Justin Gaethje won a thrilling lightweight contest with Rafael Fiziev, leaving the Azerbaijani's face bloodied en route to victory by majority decision.

Gaethje ended Fiziev's six-fight winning streak and said afterwards: "These guys are young, hungry, that's a dangerous guy right there. But I ain't going to be around much longer. 

"I'm trying one more run at the title."

UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is set for a legacy-defining test on Saturday when he heads into his trilogy fight against Kamaru Usman as the underdog.

Edwards, 31, suffered the last loss of his career against Usman – a unanimous decision back in 2015 as he failed to solve the wrestling-heavy attack from the 'Nigerian Nightmare'.

It took nearly seven years for Edwards to earn the rematch, rattling off nine wins in a row over that span to force his way into a world title fight.

He got his opportunity at UFC 278 in August, and while he showed some clear improvement from their first meeting – including landing a rare takedown against Usman – the champion looked set to extend his perfect run in the UFC to 15-0 through four rounds.

But just minutes away from a decision victory, Edwards did the unthinkable. After repeatedly throwing his left roundhouse kick to the body and legs throughout the opening 22 minutes, Edwards sent the same kick high, catching Usman clean as he instinctively leaned into it and defended his body.

It was a moment that will live forever, with the man aptly nicknamed 'Rocky' coming from the clouds to score a monumental upset and conquer the fighting world.

The passion, pain and frustration from his decade-long journey to the top was evident during his famous post-fight interview, where he stared into the camera yelling, "You all said I couldn't do it – well look at me now".

Nobody can ever take that night away from Edwards, and people will still be talking about it long after both he and Usman have hung up their gloves – but the reality is that his dream run may be in its final hours as the trilogy approaches.

While Edwards has proved he is capable of defeating Usman – something none of his previous opponents can say – it is still hard to imagine how he can win three out of five rounds against the former champion.

The grappling advantage for Usman is significant, and he is likely to lean into that even further after the painful illustration about what can happen if he settles for a kickboxing match.

Even after Edwards fought off the grappling attack from Usman in the first round of their title fight, Usman almost assuredly took rounds two, three and four, and really looked in no danger down the stretch until the fight-ending blow.

Usman is simply better at winning rounds, meaning Edwards likely has to repeat his knockout finish to defend his belt for the first time in front of a packed O2 Arena.

It would be unfair to label the historic head-kick as a fluke, or luck. You do not accidentally set someone up for a perfect finishing shot and land it with such force, at such a desperate situation in the biggest fight of your life.

But the thing about once-in-a-lifetime knockouts is that, by definition, they don't happen twice – and a fighter the calibre of Usman will not make the same mistake again.

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