Leon Edwards: UFC fighter’s rise to world champion & escaping his ‘darkest years’

Science

It happened about four years after Leon Edwards moved to England.

He, his mum, and his little brother had said their goodbyes in Jamaica and come to Birmingham to start a new life.

They’d left their old home behind – a one-room wooden shack with a zinc roof in a poor part of Kingston where “hearing gunshots was normal”.

Edwards had his own room now. That’s where he was when the phone rang one night at 2am in October 2004, aged 13.

The boys’ father had been the first to come over to England from Kingston. He’d sent for them to follow, but they didn’t live together.

Edwards’ mum picked up the phone. He could soon hear her crying.

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“I knew what he was involved in, so I knew eventually something would happen to my dad,” Edwards says.

“When it’s a late phone call you know it’s something bad. It was a traumatic situation. It wasn’t like he died in his sleep – he got murdered.

“It was like a spiral effect; it definitely made me angrier and more willing to partake in that life. It pushed me into a life of crime.”

Edwards, now aged 30, still does not know the full story behind his father’s death, just that he was shot and killed at a nightclub, over “something to do with money”. He’d been involved in gang crime back in Kingston and, growing up, Edwards often found himself exposed to its dangers.

Over the next few years – the “darkest” of his life – Edwards too was increasingly drawn into the world of gang violence in Birmingham.

But he would get out, forging a path in MMA against the odds which has culminated in him winning the sport’s biggest prize – a UFC world title.

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