Dave Lovell, part of the corner team who has praised for their words of encouragement to Leon Edwards ahead of his stunning fifth round knockout win against Kamaru Usman last month, says that they have more than one option for their first title defence.
Edwards had stated that he would happily hand Usman a rematch for the UFC welterweight title, particularly after Usman had given rematches to several fighters in the 170-pound division, Edwards included. But speaking to Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour via MMA Fighting, Lovell said that he couldn’t be sure who the first title defence might come against — and admitted that it could be against Khamzat Chimaev if he turns in a dominant performance against Nate Diaz later this month.
“If that’s the script, so be it,” Lovell said of Usman. “But you never know how these things work. There’s a lot of wheeling and dealing behind closed doors. We’re in a dirty game, and you’ve got to know to play your cards and keep them tight to your chest. You know, I know, they’re gearing up this Khamzat guy. He’s their next cash cow, and they’re fast-tracking him. So listen, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to get Usman.
“Let’s not forget, I’ve heard a few people skirt around what I’m going to say, like Khabib mentioned some things but Usman had a loss earlier in his career where he got choked out before he was in the UFC. He’s never been knocked out. It’s one thing a fighter getting dropped and getting counted out while he’s still conscious, or taken a body shot and couldn’t get up from it, or getting stopped on his feet with the referee pulled the other guy off him, but when you get knocked out in a fight where you just wake up and think, ‘What’s happened?’ Let me tell you, it’s a life-changing event, and I’m not just talking about fighting, I’m talking life itself.”
Furthermore, Lovell says he is curious as to how Usman returns after such a stunning defeat. Some fighters, he says, are never the same after suffering a loss such as the one he did in Salt Lake City.
“Does it change him?” he asked aloud. “Does he now become gun-shy? Does he become more cautious. We don’t know. So when we’re talking Usman next, this is not a foregone conclusion or a guarantee. Let’s see physically if he can get back to where he needs to — and mentally.”