February 28, 2024

LAS VEGAS – Leon Edwards took all of Colby Covington‘s vile 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 here 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 the prefight news conference Thursday. 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 with both 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 the news conference in “rage” and that it took a lot for him to calm down.

“This is very emotional,” Edwards said. “This guy used my dad’s death as entertainment. He used my dad’s murder.”

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

Edwards peppered Covington with leg kicks throughout. He bloodied Covington a bit on his check and later his nose with left hands and check right hooks from southpaw. Covington, a top-notch wrestler, was able to take him 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.

“I wanted to grapple with him,” Edwards said. “I’m a mixed martial arts. I proved my case.”

Edwards (22-3, 1 NC) is now on a 13-fight unbeaten streak, the second-most in division history. The Jamaican-born resident of Birmingham, England was coming off back-to-back victories over former pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman. Edwards, 32, has not lost since 2015.

Covington (17-4) had not fought since a win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 in March 2022. A California-born fighter who lives and trains in Florida, he had lost to just one man since 2015: Usman. Covington, 35, 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—– anyway,” Covington said to the crowd. “F— you.”

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