Edwards pledges to defeat biggest names in the Bellator middleweight division and believes lockdown has strengthened his fighting focus
Fabian Edwards cares not that he is putting noses out of joint having beef with his rivals in Bellator’s middleweight division. In fact, the 27-year-old from Birmingham relishes being the bad boy of the bunch as the headliner here in Lombardy against Holland’s Costello Van Steenis. This is the first major MMA event since lockdown, and Edwards, still undefeated and highly regarded – without truly being stretched yet in his career – goes into a match-up which will propel him towards the biggest names in the division. Names like Douglas Lima, or Gegard Mousasi, who will contest the vacant Bellator middleweight crown on October 29, behind closed doors at Mohegan Sun Resort, the fight league’s permanent behind closed doors venue during the onset of the coronavirus spread.
Edwards – 9-0 in his career, three knockouts, three decisions, three submissions – told The Telegraph that he is intent on taking out the entire division including Mousasi and Lima, and would defeat them on Saturday night if he were facing them. Edwards’ lack of fear comes from the residue of his most formative early years.
Edwards was born in Kingston. Kingston, Jamaica. He lived in a one-room wooden shack with a tin roof. One bed. He his mother father and brother, Leon – now a welterweight close to challenging for the UFC title – lived. They did not know they were living in privation. It was normal. They were happy, though, and well provided for by their parents.
Elder brother Leon told ESPN last year that their father was “involved in, let’s just say, questionable activities. Everyone would show him respect. I knew he was important in the community. I knew what he did — everyone knew what he did.”
The neighbourhood in Kingston was riddled with gangs, crime, drugs and warring between the gangs. Gunshots were normal. As young boys, just over twenty years ago, their father moved them to London, and then Aston, Birmingham. There were gangs there, too, and until they found MMA, and created Team Renegade, they had their time running with the gangs in their callow youth. “There’s a lot of stuff that happened that I didn’t really understand” explained Fabian Edwards to Telegraph Sport.
“I asked my mum about them and it just goes to show how lucky I am. Even when I came over to England, I got into trouble but I’ve put myself in a great position now. I’m trying really capitalise on my situation. Lockdown gave me a lot of time to reflect.”
“There was a lot of details. I probably won’t tell you about. But there were questions I always wanted to ask. I thought I’d ask during lockdown and I got a few answers. It motivated me even more.”
Title aspirations, heavily motivated and proud to be headlining against Van Steenis – a dangerous, ambitious fighter himself – Edwards looked sharp and ready at the Friday weigh-ins in the shadow of the silent San Siro Stadium.
“I’m very happy to be back. I’ve got energy about me, you wouldn’t think I’d be weighing in tomorrow. I feel great,” explained Edwards. “It feels good to be back. This is a fight a lot of people are interested in, they expect a lot from this fight. I expect a finish.”
The beef with Costello (the entire main card consists of middleweights) and others on the card amuses the fighter known as ‘The Assassin’. “Everyone that’s fighting on the main card, I’ve got a beef with all of them! Apart from the Italian kid. (Mike) Shipman, Kent (Kauppinen), (Will) Fleury – I’ve been staring them all out. I just had a run in with Shipman, that weren’t friendly. That’s it. I won’t be friendly with any of these guys.”
“Will will only get that fight with me if beats a proper guy. After I beat Costello, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to fight Will, at all. He had his opportunity in Dublin. I said I’d fight him and he didn’t want to do. That’s another story.”
Edwards knows victory will see him close in on a Bellator title fight. “I think including this fight I’m two fights away. Costello was shouting for titles and then he got beaten by John Salter, who is a former champion himself. I think Salter is probably up there for No.1 contender. I believe I’m one right away after Costello. After I beat Costello, I’ll be calling for Salter so I can take his position.”
On the Lima-Mousasi match-up, Edwards goes for the Brazilian who is coming up a weight division as the incumbent welterweight king, and arguably No 1 in the world at 170lbs.
“Five rounds, Lima” insists Edwards. “They’re very similar in styles but Lima is the more explosive one. Mousasi is the same pace fighter, even when he’s losing he doesn’t explode. He keeps the same pace going, like he did against Rafael Lovato Jr [when Mousasi lost the middleweight crown in London last year]. It was a close fight but he kept that same pace going. I’m leaning more towards Lima. But I don’t think he’ll stick around in the division. I think he wants to say he won another title but I don’t think he’ll want to mix it with the big boys.”
Edwards is adamant he would beat both. Of course he is; he is a fighter, young, impregnable and unbeaten. “I’d take them boys out. I want those guys on my record. Even Lyoto Machida, but he’s old now and probably doesn’t want to cut the weight anymore, just enjoy the cake. I would love to have some legends on my record.”
The long lockdown has worked for Edwards at Team Renegade. “This camp has been so focused on applying smart pressure on people. I think my training partners probably hate me now. I put a lot of pressure on whereas before I would keep my range and pick and move. I’ve just realised my potential. I’m a big middleweight, I hit hard and can move fast. I’ve been applying a lot of pressure. If I was to fight those guys I believe I’ve do the same to them.”
Explaining his movements during the Covid break, Edwards told The Telegraph: “Sitting back in the lockdown, I was grafting. I can’t remember the last time I had a week off. I just realised everyone I’ve gone to a decision with, I could have taken them out. I just played it safe. It wasn’t because I was scared, I was being too technical. I felt I lost the nastiness compared to when I started. You can see my intention was a bit more mean then . I’ve allowed the technical side take over too much. I don’t go into a fight happy with a decision, but it seems that way. Whereas I’ve trained meaner and being nasty in sparring. You’ll see that on Saturday.”
Reflecting again on Kingston and COVID-19, and how the pause had allowed him to think hard and ask questions of himself and those around him, Edwards told me: “People never really know anyone. We’ve all been through hard times. I’m not one of those guys who wants you to look at my sad story. You look at me and you’d never think I had a hard time in my life. That’s the type of person I am. We’ve all had hard times. I’ve been able to turn the negative into the person I am now.”
His takeaway from the last few months ? “Everything being taken away and not knowing when it would come back around, this is how I provide for my family. I’ve got two kids. When can I provide for them? It goes to show how much I value the position I am in now. Few years ago I would have been f—–. I think it’s matured me. That’s always a good thing.”