The former UFC welterweight champion was on the wrong end of a head kick in the main event of UFC 278 as he was knocked out by Edwards and left flat on the canvas, no longer on top of the 170-pound division. Usman offered his recollection of the finish during an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, and while he said he felt fine, the aftermath of Usman’s first KO loss is spotty at best.
“I was good,” Usman said. “I watched the fight over, I’m good. I was talking, I talked to Trevor [Wittman], I talked to everyone, because you know you go back and then you go in the medical tent and they take care of you and all of that. I talked to my family, I hugged everyone, because it was on video and everything. I remember sitting. It was like, Leon gave me a 20-minute nap.
“I was laughing hysterically in the hospital because I had to go in to get scanned and all of that, which everything was fine. Immediately I come to, I’m in the ambulance, they’re asking, ‘Do you know where you are?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, Salt Lake City. UFC 278.’ They’re like, ‘What’s your date of birth?’ I answer them. They’re like, ‘Wow, perfect.’ I answered everything perfectly.”
Everything before the knockout is clear as day to Usman, who explained that even after a first round that he lost on all three scorecards, he had already put himself into a “zone” in which he knew he would be in control for the rest of the fight.
“In the first round, the fight is going on and boom, that situation happens,” Usman said. “He hooked my leg, and this is my bad knee — both of them aren’t the greatest — so I’m like, OK let me hip him through. I tried to hip him through but he had great position, kudos to him, and I get taken down. That I was probably more upset about, giving up that takedown. I was like, ‘F***! I gave up a takedown.’
“So we get down and he takes the back and I’m just chilling and waiting for the bell and the bell goes off and I get up — and I didn’t realize this until I watched the fight back over — I get up and I kind of smiled. I get up and I jog back to my corner, but I look at it and I’m like, OK, I know that’s where I was at at that time. I was in that zone to where I’m unbothered by whatever is happening. I’m going to make this be whatever I want it to be.”
Sure enough, Usman won the next three rounds and was poised to record his sixth straight title defense and improve to 16-0 in the UFC when calamity struck.
Usman distinctly recalls attempting to set up his own dramatic finish before Edwards struck first and put Usman to sleep.
“What I wanted to do was set him up and I was going to throw the punches that he couldn’t see and I wanted to sit him down and get him out of there,” Usman said. “I wanted to throw with conviction like I did with [Jorge] Masvidal and get him out of there. What I’m going to do is shake left, shake right and then I’m going to let it go, but I’ve got to get him moving first, and I didn’t do a great job of that.
“I’m moving, moving, OK, I’ve got him set up, which I really didn’t. I shake left, I shake right, and I’m sitting in an ambulance and they’re asking me, ‘Do you know where you’re at?’ I’m like, ‘What the f***?’”
Though Usman appeared to be fine, he was still taken to the hospital for further examination, which gave him plenty of time to mull over the loss. It was just the second time Usman failed to get his hand raised in a fight and he still considers his first loss — which came via rear-naked choke submission to Jose Caceres in 2013 in what was Usman’s second pro fight — to be worse.
He also takes comfort knowing that the knockout that cost him his title was due to his own mistakes and had nothing to do with Edwards just being lucky.
“I was already good,” Usman said of his condition in the hospital. “I was OK. I was maybe disappointed that I lost, but I wasn’t bummed like the first loss I had in my career. That one f***** with me. It was the uncertainty of the future and also because there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t defend myself because I didn’t have the knowledge. That was what hurt me the most. … With this one it was like, I know my mistakes. That’s the one thing I’ve said, I’m very, very honest with myself. I am honest with myself to where I’m like, ‘S***, OK, he got me. He got me. I didn’t do a good job of what I wanted to do and he got me.’
“I don’t like the notion of everyone saying, ‘He got lucky.’ Yeah, he got lucky, of course. But luck to me is not what everyone is saying. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity — that’s luck to me. You can’t tell me that Leon didn’t train that kick. Of course he did. I’m not even a southpaw and I trained that kick. I know he trained that kick and there’s video of him actually training — of course he trained that, that’s what a well-rounded No. 1 contender in mixed martial arts in the world should do. Yeah, he did get lucky. He prepared to be able to land a kick like that. I presented him with the opportunity and he landed the kick and here we are.”