Leon Edwards has officially joined the movement. If you’re looking for a new hero, and a story to inspire your own greatness, look no further than the UFC welterweight champion.
Leon, or ‘Rocky’ as he’s better known on the mats of MMA gyms the world over, has overcome the odds time and time again, carving his own path to glory while others drove straight.
In his own words he’s ‘lived three lives’. Poverty in Kingston, Jamaica, came before gang violence in Birmingham, UK, and MMA changing the game for his entire family at age 17.
The reigning welterweight champ opened the doors of Team Renegade’s Birmingham gym to Myprotein as we got to know the latest member of our community a little better.
He shared a story that must be heard to truly understand the magnitude of his accomplishments.
3 different lives
Leon was born in Kingston, Jamaica. His life in the Caribbean was far from the notion of an idyllic island paradise.
“I’ve lived two different lives. To be born in poverty in Jamaica, then emigrated to the UK. [I] got involved in gangs and street stuff, then got involved in mixed martial arts and became a world champion.
“It’s like three different lives that, like, I’ve been through and lived.”
Leon was forced to defend himself from an early age.
“To be born in Kingston, Jamaica, then coming to Birmingham, it’s a totally different life and environment. Jamaica is like a war zone. To come from there to Birmingham, they speak a different language.
“You go to school. You’re always getting in trouble in school ‘cos you’re fighting. Kids are making fun of your accent; I spoke patois at the time... It was defo a different life, but I knew it was a safer life, right?
“Even though we didn’t have the most money, it was a better environment.”
Leon Edwards' Supplement Stack
Rocky is candid regarding his exposure to gun violence even as an infant.
“My dad was the leader of the gang in my area in Jamaica where I grew up. That was just normal. Gunshots. Well, not normal. It’s not normal. Looking back now it’s not normal. But at the time? It was a normal childhood in Jamaica. Like, my neighbors were living the same way.”
Shortly after moving to England, Leon lost his father following a shooting in a London nightclub.
“My dad was the breadwinner of the family. He was the guy who brought us to the UK. He died quite early after us coming to the UK.
“My mom was still trying to figure out life in a new country. To have the support system that she had in my dad, taken away, we all felt it at the time. It defo affected all of us.
“I remember, like, being asleep. My mom getting a phone call about what happened. I was in my room, and I heard my mom crying. She came in my room, told me what happened, obviously started crying and stuff. It was a traumatic day.
“Everyone loses parents. But to lose such a support system at the time, which my dad was, to lose that at 13 was a lot for me, a lot for my family, a lot for everyone.”
Discipline is everything in MMA training. But the death of his father awoke a defiant streak in Leon.
“You get more rebellious after you lose a parent, especially in the manner I did. You blame the world for your problems. I went down the wrong path, as most kids probably would from being in that environment and having your dad be murdered."
Leon concedes he lost guidance in his life, but he’d find direction on the mats of a combat sports gym at 17.
“I got involved in mixed martial arts quite late and I used that to change my life and change my family’s life.”
The sport became all consuming.
“I put so much time into mixed martial arts and all my energy into it— I expect to win. When I lose it’s defo heartbreaking. So, I did like, a lot of soul searching. ‘What am I doing wrong in the gym?’ ‘Can I make a career from Birmingham; do I need to move to America to improve or what?’
“I went traveling first just to see what’s out there, then I realized everything I need is in Birmingham.
“But the more you win the more you believe in your team, the more you believe in your environment and yourself. It spurs everyone on, forward. What we're doing here in Birmingham is working... I wanted to make it from Birmingham. I know how much it does for the kids coming behind me.
“For them to have like, me in the gym every day they can see how I’m working, how I structure my camps and everything. They can learn from it. It’s more about giving back."
The covid pandemic threw a significant obstacle in the works for Leon’s world championship plans, enforcing an almost two-year layoff between bouts.
But after a no contest bout with Belal Muhammad in March 2021, Rocky bounced back with a unanimous decision victory over the infamous Nate Diaz. That fight opened the door to a title bout.
Leon would have to overcome the Nigerian Nightmare Kamaru Usman, who’d already beaten Edwards once in his career, way back in 2015. The loss was avenged convincingly by a devatstating head kick. Gold was strapped around Leon’s waist for the first time in his UFC career.
‘And still...’ echoed around the arena when the pair met again for a third time in March of 2023. Leon had proved his title victory was no fluke. A first defense in the books and his reign over the Welterweight division confirmed.
“My belief and my mentality is so bulletproof that I know I can do it. I think hard work is the main one, for anything in life. You definitely need hard work and discipline.
“It’s constant showing up and doing your craft every day. To be here as a world champion and be in a position to provide for my family, it’s a proud feeling.
“I’m on the right path. I’m doing the right things. ‘Keep doing what you’re doing and the sky’s the limit’.
“The overall feeling is I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I know there’s so much more that I can achieve. I can’t let this be my limit. I don’t think this is the end of the story. With the right mentality it’s the start of the story.”
Leon Edwards' Fight Records
21-3-0 (1 NC)
Leon Edwards Next Fight
UFC 296: Edwards vs. Covington
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, United States
December 16th, 2023 (December 17, 03:00 GMT)
Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards will defend his Welterweight belt in a long-anticipated title bout against US fighter Colby Covington.
The fight will be Leon’s second title defense, headlining UFC 296 at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas on December 16, 2023.
Fight fans based in the US can watch the event live at 3:00 PM Pacific Time on December 17.