Leon Edwards Recalls How His Body ‘Shut Down’ Before KO’ing Kamaru Usman

Leon Edwards earned a historic last minute KO comeback victory over the previously undefeated welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 on Saturday night, but ‘Rocky’ has now recalled how he felt like his body was trying to “shut down” much earlier in the fight in what he believes was a struggle to cope with the elevation in Salt Lake City.

“In the back of my mind I thought, ‘Why is everyone getting tired?’ I was watching it thinking I won’t get tired because I’ve been here for two weeks, I slept in altitude at home – I probably won’t feel it,” Edwards said on the MMA Hour as he recalled his pre-fight warm-up. “So I was watching it backstage, and I was thinking in the back of my head as I was warming up, ‘S***, why is everyone getting tired?’ When we went out there, after the first round, I can’t explain it, my body just shut down. It was just a weird feeling. It wasn’t cardio, it was like my body just wasn’t reacting. In my head I could think what I wanted to do, but my body just wasn’t doing it. …

“My 10 fights I had to get to this point to fight for the championship, I never looked like that in a fight, ever. Even when I was fighting, I was looking ahead like, ‘Man, what the hell is going on? Just keep pushing. I know he’s crafty and the body is feeling it, but just keep working and stay focused. It’s never over until it’s over.’ I stayed in there and got the clean head kick KO. …

“If my body was reacting the way it was in the first round, the fight would have gone a totally different way. The first round I felt normal. Then after that, my body just kind of shut down on me.”

As the rounds progressed and Usman began taking the upperhand, Edwards admits that at times it was a mental battle as well as a physical one.

“I was getting worried, for sure – 100 percent,” Edwards said. “The moment was so big for me, and it’s just my luck for that to happen. I thought, ‘Man, there’s no way this can happen, that it can play out like this.’ I said it all week, I feel like this is my moment. God brought me to this point to make this happen. That’s what kept playing in my head, there’s no way God brought me here for this just to go to decision and finish like this. I had to just stay focused and listen to my team. Great motivation. They knew how to press my buttons, and they kept me in there and got the finish.”

Edward’s coach’s words prior to the final round, yelling at him to “stop feeling sorry for yourself,” while urging him to “pull this sh*t out the fire,” have gone viral since the fight, and helped him on his way to what’s destined to be a legendary stoppage victory worthy of his ‘Rocky’ nickname.

“It’s been like that before but not that intense,” Edwards said of his coach’s intensity. “It’s been like that before in training and other stuff. … I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling — it’s hard to explain it. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was thinking, ‘There’s no way this is playing out like this.’ I think he could tell by my face, based on what he said. ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Keep trying, mate. You more than deserve to be here. You can beat this guy. You can do it, so just go out there and do it.’ So that’s what I did. …

“That’s one of my worst performances ever in my career. To have my worst performance in the biggest moment of my life, it’s hard to explain how you feel mentally. It’s like what the f***. Come on. How is this playing out like this. It was difficult to go through, but it is what it is. That was Usman’s best performance, that was my worst performance, and he still couldn’t finish me. I finished him on my worst day.”

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.