Leon Edwards says his record should nudge him past Jorge Masvidal for title shot

Edwards not impressed by Usman-Covington fight (0:56)

Leon Edwards joins Ariel Helwani and explains why he wasn't impressed by what he saw from Kamaru Usman's fight against Colby Covington. (0:56)

Leon Edwards said attending UFC 245 gave him a unique perspective on welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who retained his belt with a fifth-round stoppage of Colby Covington.

"Being there gave me more confidence that in 2020 I'll be a world champion," Edwards said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I'd beat both of them guys."

Edwards is on an eight-fight win streak and is ESPN's No. 6-ranked welterweight. He's hoping to be next in line for a title shot, and Usman said he's deserving of that opportunity. But there's no indication the UFC agrees.

Edwards said he talked to the UFC on Saturday and there was some interest, but there appears to be more interest from the promotion in Edwards fighting Tyron Woodley, who's ranked No. 5 by ESPN. Dana White told BT Sport the UFC wants Woodley vs. Edwards at UFC London. Edwards hails from England.

But Woodley recently said he doesn't want to go to London, except on vacation.

"He doesn't want to come to the UK to fight, I said, 'OK, cool, I'll come to the U.S. and fight you.' He still makes another excuse," Edwards said. "My attention now is on Kamaru Usman. He's the world champion, and my aim is to be the world champion, and I want to go out there and defeat the last man to defeat me."

White expressed interest on Saturday in Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal.

"I've earned my shot," Edwards said. "In my last 10 fights, I won nine, and [Masvidal] won [six]."

While Usman also believes Edwards has earned his shot, Usman also told TMZ that he would like to fight Georges St-Pierre.

Urijah Faber not done yet, praises Yan

The image of Urijah Faber leaving the Octagon this past Saturday night was one that MMA fans haven't necessarily seen before of "The California Kid." A bruised and badly swollen left eye, with a cut that needed several stitches. Indeed, it was gruesome.

But the 40-year-old Faber said on Monday that his second-round TKO loss to top bantamweight contender Petr Yan hasn't made him want to hang up his gloves. Although Faber admitted his days of going on a title run are over, he's open to competing again in the UFC -- if the matchup makes sense.

"I was thinking about doing four fights at 40," Faber said. "I'm not opposed to [competing again], but maybe I'll do one on my 41st birthday, maybe on my 42nd birthday and call it quits. But no big plans to run through the division or anything. ... I'm not doing a fight just to have a fight."

Even at his advanced age for the cage, Faber was competitive against a fighter who he said has the goods to be a UFC champion. So competitive that it may have given him a false sense of security after Round 1.

Faber said that instead of grappling, he was willing to stand and trade blows with Yan in Round 2. He did, and he paid dearly.

"I knew that was going to be a nasty fight," Faber said. "I knew that I would have a chance to catch him, but he had a very good chance of catching me. To be honest, I came in the first round and I feel like I left the first round feeling like I'm faster than this guy, and I felt his power and I wasn't worried about his power.

"The difference was it's not about power and it's not about speed. It's about precision and technique and he's a master of striking. His precision is what hurt me in the second round."

It's a lesson that he'll certainly pass on to his Team Alpha Male fighters. In fact, Faber said the UFC gave him several options for an opponent at UFC 245, but he chose Yan for a reason.

Faber guides fellow top bantamweights Song Yadong and Cody Garbrandt, and both fighters may face Yan in the future.

"I feel like Petr has got the ability to go the furthest," Faber said of the potential foes that were presented to him by the UFC. "I figured I might sneak in and get him or at least learn a lot about him for the next generation."

Talk about taking one for the team.

How Elvis influenced "Wonderboy's" MMA career


Thompson presented NMF belt

Ariel Helwani awards the inaugural NMF belt to Stephen Thompson on set during his show.

Stephen Thompson is a karate guy who competes in MMA. But he follows a path that's more common in boxing, where it's not unusual for fighters to be trained by their fathers.

Thompson was introduced to martial arts by his dad, a professional kickboxer and gym owner in South Carolina. Twenty fights into his professional MMA career, and after 58 kickboxing bouts (all wins), "Wonderboy" still trains under Ray Thompson.

"I couldn't imagine it any other way," Thompson said during Monday's appearance on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, during which he revealed he's still healing from fractures in both hands -- on his left ring finger and his right index.

So how did Ray Thompson get into combat sports? He was trying to emulate a martial artist famous in Hollywood.

No, not Bruce Lee. The inspiration for the father of perhaps the greatest karate practitioner in MMA was the greatest entertainer of his time.

"He couldn't sing like Elvis. He couldn't dance like Elvis Presley," Thompson said of his father. "But he had seen Presley do karate moves in his movies and even onstage." And that was all Ray Thompson, fanboy, needed to see. "He wanted to do martial arts," said Stephen, "because he wanted to be like Elvis Presley."

Ray Thompson also gave his son his first live exposure to MMA. It was Sept. 9, 1994, and they drove 100 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend UFC 3. Yes, three. And the very first bout he saw left a lasting impression on "Wonderboy," who was 11 years old. "It was the one where Kimo [Leopoldo] fought Royce Gracie," he recalled, "and [Gracie] pulled his pony tail."

Gracie, who won the first two UFC one-night tournaments, ended up winning the fight by armlock submission, but he was so fatigued afterward that he could not continue. Ken Shamrock withdrew from the tourney as well after sustaining an injury in his second bout of the night. The event was won by replacement fighter Steve Jennum. All in a night's entertainment for the Thompson family.

"We weren't the kind of family that sat around the house watching family shows or playing games," said Thompson. "We watched fights. That's what we did as a family. Either we [kids] were fighting for our dad's entertainment, or we were watching fights."

And right after UFC 3, "Wonderboy" recalled, "I told my dad then that I was going to do this one day."

Chase Hooper living the dream


Hooper nearly submits Teymur

Chase Hooper locks in a choke on Daniel Teymur, but Teymur is able to withstand the pressure and get free. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.

At 20 years old, Chase Hooper is the youngest fighter on the UFC roster. After winning a developmental deal on Dana White's Contender Series in July 2018, Hooper fought three times to sharpen himself up.

After two finishes early this year, Hooper was positioned to make his UFC debut in the prime spot on the early prelims against Daniel Teymur. Despite a shaky start, Hooper imposed his will upon Teymur and eventually earned a TKO victory.

So, who is this kid? And where did he come from?

"I started doing jiu-jitsu when I was eight years old, so I'm about 12 years into this," Hooper told Helwani. "I just kind of stuck with it."

Hooper started to really pay attention when his coach Jeff Hougland made his UFC debut in July 2011. Hooper was 11 years old at the time, and he spent the next few years working on his craft.

"I really kind of buckled down around 16. I won the IBJJF Pan Americans -- I got first in my division and I get second in the openweight for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That's kind of when I figured out I'm pretty decent at competition, I'm good at dealing with the stress and I like it."

Hooper didn't attend traditional high school for his senior year, instead leaning upon the state of Washington's Running Start program by taking college classes online to fulfill his high school credits.

Despite Hooper's early successes -- he's now 9-0-1 professionally -- his age and appearance mean that he's often not taken as seriously by those in the fighting world who don't know him.

"People will just assume that my coach is the fighter, and not me, because he's a little more rugged than me. A little more beat up. I think it works. It lets me stand out from the crowd. So many people just look like dudes with facial hair that are jacked with tattoos, and it's like, 'What's different about you?'

"You have to find your way to stick out, and for me, I look like a weird dude. And I am a little bit."

Harrison ready for PFL finals, unapologetic about crying and not interested in 145

Kayla Harrison has been the most visible star of the second season of the PFL, and she's the favorite to become the PFL's inaugural women's lightweight championship and $1 million on Dec. 31.

Harrison fights Larissa Pacheco for the second time in a bout that brings the season full circle. Harrison dominated Pacheco in her first regular-season bout in May, but she cried in the cage after she was unable to put away Pacheco with a finish.

While many presumed UFC veteran Sarah Kaufman would fight her way into the finals opposite Kaufman, Pacheco imposed her will and knocked of the top-seeded Kaufman to set up a rematch.

"I'm never satisfied unless I get an 'instill my will' victory where it's a KO or a submission. I wasn't happy with the win, that's just who I am as a person -- I expect excellence from myself, and that's why I'm able to compete at such a high level," said Harrison. "But the Kayla that beat [Larissa] in May would get eaten alive by the Kayla I am today.

"[And] I don't really make any apologies for expecting excellence from myself. I'm my own toughest critic, and I think the biggest mistake I made was doing it front of people."

Regardless of how the 2019 championship plays out, Harrison locked down a spot in the 2020 PFL season with a new contract. She was also quick to dismiss the possibility of next season's women's division in the PFL moving from 155 to 145 to increase the pool of fighters they could draw from.

"There's no need at this point. I've been pretty vocal about how I feel about cutting weight," said Harrison. "I don't think it's healthy. I think it's super dangerous, especially in the sport that we do. You have these fighters who are dehydrating their bodies of 20, 30 pounds of weight and water weight. What protects your brain is water. You dehydrate your body and then you step in a cage 24 hours later and expect your body to be healthy and safe? I don't think it's healthy at all. I don't believe in it, I've never cut weight, and I don't think it's a good message to send young kids.

"I'm a little bit concerned about [a lack of depth in the division], but realistically, a lot of the girls that fight 145 weigh more than me, so I hope that we start to change the game and they realize that there are more weight classes and you can fight at a healthier weight and have a healthier lifestyle. That's my goal."

Geoff Neal finally quits his second job

Geoff Neal had just scored his seventh victory in a row on Saturday night, and it was a wildly impressive one. He became the first to knock out durable Mike Perry, and he did so in just 90 seconds. Naturally, when Joe Rogan interviewed Neal right afterward in the Octagon, the commentator suggested he was now a big-time player in the UFC welterweight division.

Many fighters would have taken that moment to call out their division's champion, especially on a night when that champ, Kamaru Usman, would later be defending his belt. But Neal (13-2) showed no interest in rushing things. He spoke of needing a couple more fights to be ready for prime time.


"Because it's true. I'm only 5-0 in the UFC. I've still got work to do," Neal said on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on Monday. "The 170 division is a whole bunch of dogs. When I fight for the belt, I want to be 100% ready. I don't want to get rushed and thrown in there and take a loss, and people just forget about me.

"Neal's pressure to perform was ramped up shortly after he signed for the Perry fight, as the Houston-based 29-year-old quit his longtime side job as a waiter. That freed up his weekends, relieving some stress, but a whole different line of stress came with it.

"I was just thinking in my head, 'Now I'm gonna quit my job, I'm gonna get my ass beat and then I'm gonna go back and try to get my job back,'" Neal said. "I'm not gonna lie: It was a kind of a lot of pressure, because it was make or break. I needed to win that fight, and I needed to win it in spectacular fashion."

That he did. Now what? Neal is not a callout kind of guy, but he'd like to fight Santiago Ponzinibbio, who like him has one of the longest active UFC win streaks. Neal has five straight victories in the promotion. The Argentine has seven. "It makes sense," Neal said.

What didn't make sense for him at UFC 245: sticking around to watch Usman in the main event, just for scouting purposes.

"I know my next fight is not going to be against him, so I'm not really focused on what he's doing," said Neal. "I'm really trying to see and scout the fighters I might be fighting next."

Jessica Eye not content to sit back

Jessica Eye recently left the comforts of her home in Cleveland to settle in Las Vegas. The former flyweight title challenger said that being able to work out at the UFC Performance Institute has been a boost to her training, but moving closer to the West Coast also has paid off in other ways.

Eye, who earned a decision win over Viviane Araujo at UFC 245 despite missing weight by five pounds, told the Helwani Show that she's signed with a management team based out of Beverly Hills, California, which has potentially helped her gain mainstream notoriety.

"I feel like some really cool, new things have been happening with me and some new things I have on the horizon that being out West has actually gave me," Eye said. "I got to see the opportunities and things that are going to be coming up very soon during the spring. ... Being so close to California, there's a lot of jobs in both the MMA industry as well as the TV industry."

Eye then broke out into a little dance.

"What? Like, THE dancing show?" Helwani asked, referring to ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

"I mean, we'll see," Eye replied. "I'm not going to put too much out there ... but I think I'm a good slow dancer."

As far as her weight cut gone awry, Eye said she tried water loading for the first time and it didn't work. It was the only time in her career that she had missed weight.

"I'm new to water loading, I never used to do it," Eye said. "I think that my body wasn't quite ready for it for that weight cut, so I don't foresee this ever being a problem again. ... I do eventually want to work my way back to the title [opportunity], and I never want this to happen again. I try to let every time I make a mistake be my learning lesson."