UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards is against the idea of defending his title against Colby Covington next, and he has a valid argument for it.
Covington hasn't competed since March last year when he outpointed Jorge Masvidal over five rounds. It's his only win since losing his welterweight title rematch to Kamaru Usman in November 2021.
Edwards, meanwhile, was removed from the rankings following a period of inactivity in 2020 and certainly didn't receive a title shot like UFC president Dana White is seemingly promising Covington. Basically, it's very understandable why Edwards is against giving Covington a shot.
All that said, “Rocky” would be better served accepting the fight for a number of reasons. For one, it now appears to be a great stylistic matchup for Edwards.
The Birmingham native defended 11 of Usman's 15 takedown attempts at UFC 286 this past weekend. Unlike the rematch, he got back to his feet whenever he was taken down, showing that there might have been some substance to his claim that the Utah altitude affected his gas tank in the second fight.
Given how many observers would argue that Usman and Covington have virtually the same style with their wrestling and pressure, with the latter throwing more volume compared to the former, Edwards will fancy his chances against the takedown threat of Covington.
Additionally, the striking pedigree of Edwards would allow him to punish Covington on the feet while he's attempting entries or unloading with strikes. Both Usman and Masvidal were able to drop Covington with the latter notably being too tired to capitalize on it because of the takedowns.
It's fair to say Edwards is a superior striker than both Usman and Masvidal, and if he manages to stuff Covington's takedowns, he could definitely capitalize and end up getting the potential finish. All in all, it's a very winnable fight for Edwards.
Another big reason Edwards should take the Covington fight is to increase his exposure and fanbase. It's easy to forget, but before his knockout win over Usman, Edwards was far from a popular figure.
He was booed by the British crowd at UFC London back in 2019 (something he acknowledged during fight week) while his feud with Masvidal, eye poke on Belal Muhammad, and the manner in which he finished the Nate Diaz fight didn't exactly earn him new fans.
His fanbase (particularly in the United Kingdom) has certainly increased tenfold in the past year, though, and he could increase it even further by facing Covington. “Chaos” is one of the most polarizing figures in the UFC and his brash, controversial comments certainly bring a number of eyeballs to any event.
As a result, there would be a large contingent of fans who would be supporting Edwards (or just wanting to see Covington lose) and if the fight takes place in the United States like Covington has called for, it also doubles as a chance for Edwards to increase his profile stateside.
The final reason Edwards should take the Covington fight relates to the first reason in that it's a very winnable fight for Edwards and a chance to rack up the title defenses.
Edwards will no longer have to face arguably the toughest task in the division in Usman anymore and a win over Covington would make it two welterweight title defenses.
Should Masvidal end up beating Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 next month, it wouldn't be a surprise to see “Gamebred” fight Edwards next given their backstory. Masvidal turns 39 later this year and even if he was a couple of years younger, it's hard to see oddsmakers not side with Edwards in that matchup where a win would make it three title defenses.
Edwards would then have to deal with the more tougher matchups in the division including Muhammad and most notably, Shavkat Rakhmonov — a well-rounded Kazakhstani fighter who many believe to be a future world champion.
Rakhmonov is 17-0 with finishes in every single one of his fights. His most recent victory was an impressive submission win over Geoff Neal at UFC 285 earlier this month.
In a scenario where Rakhmonov ends up facing Edwards next, it wouldn't be a surprise to see oddsmakers or even fans and media alike rating his chances against the current welterweight king.
While Edwards will fancy his chances against anyone as he should, it would probably be for the best that he ends up facing someone like Rakhmonov down the line as opposed to in his second title defense.
All these things considered, Leon Edwards should definitely accept a fight with Colby Covington.