Edwards routs Covington in ‘very emotional’ win

Sports

LAS VEGAS — Leon Edwards took all of Colby Covington‘s trash talk leading into the fight, stayed composed and put together a poised performance.

Edwards defeated Covington via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 296 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. With the victory, Edwards successfully defended the UFC welterweight title for a second time.

It was a fairly one-sided performance, with Covington unable to push the pace as he normally would and Edwards picking him apart from the outside with kicks.

The tension between the two men boiled over at Thursday’s prefight news conference. Covington said he would take Edwards to the “seventh layer of hell” and that maybe they would see Edwards’ late father there. Edwards threw a full water bottle at Covington while both were on the dais, and the two had to be separated.

Edwards’ father was murdered when Edwards was 13 years old.

In his postfight interview, Edwards said he cried after Thursday’s news conference in “rage” and that it took a lot for him to calm down.

“This fight was very emotional for me,” Edwards said. “This guy used my dad’s death as entertainment. He used my dad’s murder as entertainment. It took a lot for me to calm down and stay focused and come into this fight.

“You can’t use my dad’s death as entertainment, and that’s what he did, you know? To this day, it still breaks my heart he got murdered, and he said my dad should burn in hell.”

“He’s a great competitor,” Edwards added, “but just a dirty human being.”

Coming in, ESPN had Edwards ranked No. 4 on its pound-for-pound list.

Edwards peppered Covington with leg kicks throughout and bloodied Covington on his cheek and later his nose with left hands and check right hooks from southpaw. Covington, a top-notch wrestler, was able to take Edwards down a couple of times, but outside of sustained ground control in the fifth, Edwards was able to get up and even take 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. “All training camp, everyone kept going on about his cardio, his cardio, his cardio. So, I knew I wanted to control the distance, but I’d love to match him cardio for cardio, and I could match with technique and range and shut him down, and that’s what I did.”

“I wanted to grapple with him, just to shut down this striker thing that I got going on. I’m a mixed martial artist,” he continued. “I wanted come out here and prove my case — outgrapple the grappler — and I outstruck him.”

UFC president Dana White said he thought Covington, 35, looked “slow and old” in the fight and chided Covington for long bouts of inactivity. White said Edwards even “outwrestled” Covington and “destroyed” Covington’s right leg with kicks.

“This is not a business that waits for you,” White said. “Your window is very short. You never know once you get into your mid-30s when you’re going to show up and not look like you anymore.”

White said he wasn’t a fan of Covington’s talk about Edwards’ father, either. After the fight, Edwards’ cornermen started talking to Covington inside the Octagon, and the two sides had to be kept apart. White said he told Edwards’ team members not to get into a brawl after the fight or they’d be fined and that a dominant victory would be tainted.

“One of those things I really don’t like is going after family,” White said. “It’s just a nasty thing to do.”

After the bout, Covington said he didn’t regret his remarks from the news conference, bringing up Edwards’ father’s alleged criminal past.

“Why would I feel bad for a criminal?” Covington said.

Edwards (22-3, 1 NC) now enjoys a 13-fight unbeaten streak, the second longest in division history, passing UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre. That number also represents the second-longest active streak in the UFC, tied with Islam Makhachev. Edwards, 32, has not lost since 2015. The Jamaican-born resident of Birmingham, England, was coming off back-to-back victories over former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman.

It was St-Pierre who texted Edwards after the prefight news conference, giving Edwards advice about how to deal with 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 win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 in March 2022. The California-born fighter who lives and trains in Florida had lost to just one man since 2015: Usman. Covington is the former UFC interim lightweight champion.

“I’ve had a long layoff,” Covington said. “I think a little ring rust.”

When the fight started, the crowd chanted Covington’s name. He had rallied the American fans at the news conference, dressing like George Washington and trying to paint the fight with Edwards as the United States against England, saying several times it would be like the American Revolution. By the end of the fight, the crowd was booing Covington’s performance.

“You’re all a bunch of drunk b—-es anyway,” Covington said to the crowd. “F— you.”

Covington is now 0-3 in fights for the UFC undisputed title. He called out Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the postfight news conference.

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