Here are a few of the key moments from the press conference for UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards
While most of the attention this week is (appropriately) directed at this week’s events, namely the UFC 276 card, some time at International Fight Week was dedicated to an upcoming event the UFC will be holding next month in Utah.
The main event of UFC 278 will feature Kamaru Usman defending the UFC welterweight championship against Leon Edwards.
The two were able to share a stage together and address fight fans and media at a press conference on July 1.
Here is what we learned.
3 things we learned from the UFC 278: Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards press conference
1. Kamaru Usman considering skipping middleweight, moving up to light heavyweight
The fight with Leon Edwards will be Kamaru Usman’s third opponent in his title run that he’s already fought against (Usman defended the belt against Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal twice). At the press conference, it was noted how Usman has completely taken over the division and there’s a need for someone — namely a Belal Muhammad or a Khamzat Chimaev — that needs to step up.
But Usman may have some other plans. The current welterweight champ has previously admitted a desire to jump up to light heavyweight, and he stated at the press conference that such a desire still lives with him.
“I was going to skip Israel [Adesanya] and go fight Jan at 205,” Usman said. “I’m pound-for-pound. I want to prove it. No matter what weight it is, I thought he was a really good matchup for me. I think I would beat him.”
Usman is currently ranked No. 1 on the UFC’s men’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Normally a champ will only move one division for champ-champ status, but it should be noted that Usman and current Adesanya, the current UFC middleweight champion, are great friends.
2. Kamaru Usman admits to falling in love with striking, both suggest a wrestling-based bout
It’s no secret that Usman’s background is in wrestling, being an NCAA Division-II champion. His wrestling also led him to success in the UFC, though it rarely ever led to finishes and performance bonuses. But Usman has shown as of late that he is capable of great power as well, with it helping to dominate Tyron Woodley for the title and scoring finishes of Covington, Burns and Masvidal.
Edwards has remarked that Usman fell in love with his striking, and Usman wouldn’t deny it at the press conference.
“I paid Trevor Wittman a lot of money, and he deserves every bit of it. And so did Henry Hooft. So why wouldn’t I come in and exercise the striking? Of course, I fell in love with my striking. That’s why I have more knockouts in championship fights than he has in the UFC his entire career.”
Edwards does have six KO/TKO victories in his MMA career, but only two of them have come in the Octagon. Since starting his time in the UFC, Edwards has also evolved his wrestling and grappling work.
But is it any match for Usman’s? The champ seemed to hint we’ll find out when they fight.
“Yes, I fell in love with my striking,” Usman said. “But guess what? You fell in love with your grappling. So August 20th, we’re going to wrestle.”
3. Leon Edwards says he’ll fight Jorge Masvidal but wants him to win a couple of fights first
Usman is not the only welterweight to have a history with Masvidal, as Edwards has had his own run-in — one that didn’t take place inside the Octagon.
Following a UFC London card that saw both men score victories, Edwards confronted Masvidal backstage in an incident caught on camera. This is when Masvidal battered Edwards, giving the infamous “three-piece with a soda” line.
While Edwards now has a shot at the title, Masvidal has dropped three straight — he lost to Colby Covington at UFC 272 after dropping both bouts he had with Usman.
When asked about the possibility of still facing Masvidal at some point, Edwards signaled that he’d be open to it, but he would give Usman a title rematch first — and he wants Masvidal to get back on winning ways.
“[Usman] is deserving; been a long-reigning champion for a long time,” Edwards said. “And then after that, let that boy go win a few fights and I’d love to run that one back, in London, in the U.K. It’d be amazing.”