LAS VEGAS – Leon Edwards took over all of Colby Covington’s pre-fight trash talk, stayed calm and delivered a balanced performance.
Edwards defeated Covington by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 296 Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. With this victory, Edwards successfully defended the UFC welterweight title for the second time.
It was a pretty one-sided performance, with Covington unable to push the pace like he normally would and Edwards picking him apart from the outside with kicks.
The tension between the two men came to a head during Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. Covington said he would take Edwards to the “seventh layer of hell” and maybe they would see Edwards’ late father there. Edwards threw a full water bottle at Covington while the two were on the stage, and the two had to be separated.
Edwards’ father was murdered when Edwards was 13 years old.
In his post-fight interview, Edwards said he cried with “rage” after Thursday’s press conference and that it took him a long time to calm down.
“That fight was very emotional for me,” Edwards said. “This guy used my father’s death as entertainment. He used my father’s murder as entertainment. It took me a long time to calm down, stay focused, and get into this fight.
“You can’t use my father’s death as entertainment, and that’s what he did, you know? To this day it breaks my heart that he was murdered and that he says my father should burn in hell.”
“He’s a great competitor,” Edwards added, “but just a lousy human being.”
Coming in, ESPN ranked Edwards No. 4 on its pound-for-pound list.
Edwards peppered Covington with leg kicks and bloodied Covington on his cheek and later on his nose with left hands and checked the southpaw’s right hooks. Covington, a top-notch wrestler, was able to take Edwards down several times, but outside of sustained ground control in the fifth, Edwards was able to get back up and even knock Covington down at times. Covington was just 2 of 10 on takedown attempts in the fight.
“I knew I was the better athlete,” Edwards said. “During training camp, everyone was talking about his cardio, his cardio, his cardio. So, I knew I wanted to control the distance, but I would love to match him cardio for cardio, and I could match the technique and scope. and I stopped him, and that’s what I did.”
“I wanted to fight him, just to put an end to this striker thing I had going on. I’m a mixed martial artist,” he continued. “I wanted to come here and prove my case – outplay the grappler – and I outplayed him.”
UFC president Dana White said he thought Covington, 35, looked “slow and old” in the fight and chastised Covington for his long periods of inactivity. White said Edwards even “outplayed” Covington and “destroyed” Covington’s right leg with kicks.
“It’s not a deal you can expect,” White said. “Your window is very short. Once you hit your thirties, you never know when you’re going to show up and no longer look like you.”
White said he also wasn’t a fan of Covington’s comments about Edwards’ father. After the fight, Edwards’ cornermen began talking to Covington inside the Octagon, and the two camps had to be separated. White said he told Edwards’ team not to get into a fight after the fight or they would be fined and a dominant victory would be tainted.
“One of those things I really don’t like is taking it out on my family,” White said. “It’s just a bad thing to do.”
After the fight, Covington said he did not regret his remarks at the press conference, bringing up Edwards’ father’s alleged criminal past.
“Why would I feel bad for a criminal?” » Covington said.
Edwards (22-3, 1 NC) is now on a 13-fight unbeaten streak, the second longest in divisional history, surpassing UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre. This number also represents the second longest active streak in the UFC, tied with Islam Makhachev. The Jamaican resident of Birmingham, England was coming off back-to-back victories against former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman. Edwards, 32, hasn’t lost since 2015.
It was St-Pierre who texted Edwards after the pregame press conference, giving Edwards advice on how to handle what Covington said.
“I consider (St-Pierre) the GOAT and I want to surpass him,” Edwards said.
Covington (17-4) had not fought since a victory over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 in March 2022. The California-born fighter who lives and trains in Florida had lost to only one man since 2015: Usman. Covington, 35, is the former UFC interim lightweight champion.
“I had a long layoff,” Covington said. “I think there’s a little rust in the ring.”
When the fight started, the crowd chanted Covington’s name. He had rallied American fans at the press conference, dressing like George Washington and trying to portray the fight with Edwards as the United States versus England, repeatedly saying it would be like the American Revolution. By the end of the fight, the crowd was booing Covington’s performance.
“You’re just a bunch of drunk assholes anyway,” Covington told the crowd. “F— you.”
Covington is now 0-3 in UFC undisputed title fights. He called out Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson during the post-fight press conference.