Fabian Edwards: ‘Mum hangs out the window during our fights, screaming for help’

Exclusive interview: Edwards, brother of UFC champion Leon, is preparing for his biggest Bellator fight yet – against Gegard Mousasi this weekend

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 12 May 2023 18:00 BST
Fabian Edwards (left) will face ex-middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi in Paris
Fabian Edwards (left) will face ex-middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi in Paris (Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan)

When Fabian Edwards steps out at the Accor Arena for the biggest fight of his career on Friday, he will do so without his mother in attendance. It is certainly not for a lack of love that Mrs Edwards won’t be present in Paris; her son is just concerned about her lack of composure.

“My mum’s a crazy woman, you know?” the Briton tells The Independent, in the corner of a cafe at one end of London Bridge. “She’s never come to watch me or Leon fight in person, because it affects her bad. When she’s watching from home, she’s honestly climbing up the walls. If she were in the venue, she’d be running around, losing her mind. I just know it would be in the back of my mind. I’d be looking around, thinking: ‘What’s mum doing?’”

The “Leon” in question is Edwards’ older brother, the reigning UFC welterweight champion. The Jamaican-born, Birmingham-based pair have long dreamt of holding gold at the same time, and if Fabian can overcome veteran Gegard Mousasi on Friday, a shot at the Bellator middleweight title will ensue.

It might be too much for his mother to handle.

“I remember when Leon fought Nate Diaz, he obviously got rocked in the last round,” says Edwards, 30, recalling his brother’s win over the MMA icon in 2021. “It was like 5am or 6am, UK time, and she was hanging out the window, screaming: ‘Help!!! Someone!!!’ She’s that crazy, it makes her so nervous that she can’t control herself. If it were my kids, I’d be hanging out the window and shouting the same thing.”

If Edwards has his way, however, that will never come to pass. Pondering a future in which his two sons, both 4, and his newborn daughter might compete, the middleweight says: “I wouldn’t wanna watch them get knocked out! To see them get choked out, that’d be emotional.

“My sons watch, and they’re defo gonna train – I think it’s good to be focused, it’s good to be involved in sport – but I don’t really want them to do it professionally. I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. My aim is to make enough [money] from this that they don’t have to go through it. Me and my brother, we’re doing this to change our family’s lives, because we haven’t come from a good background financially.”

Leon, 31, went some way to achieving that goal with his welterweight title win against Kamaru Usman in August, and again with his successful defence against the Nigerian-American in London this March. Now, it is his younger brother’s turn again.

Edwards during his last fight, a points win over Charlie Ward in October (Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan)

Fabian will enter the Accor Arena on the back of wins over Charlie Ward and Lyoto Machida, the latter regarded as one of MMA’s greats. Meanwhile, Mousasi is a former Bellator champion and ex-UFC contender, and the Dutchman, 37, is widely seen as one of the sport’s most-underrated middleweights.

“Machida wasn’t my hero, Mousasi’s not my hero,” Edwards shrugs. “I understand Mousasi is a big name, and a lot of people are like, ‘wow’, but for me he’s just another opponent.

“He mixes it up well, but he’s a flat-footed, come-forward fighter. When you’ve been fighting that way for the last 20 years, you’re gonna [keep fighting] that way. I think he might underestimate me, because after the Ward fight, he said he wasn’t impressed by me. I think he’ll walk into trouble, I think it’ll be a big shock for him.

“But regardless of whether you hold him in high regard or not, you’re gonna try to punch his face in. You have to go in there and treat him with no respect. Win the fight, and afterwards you can say: ‘I respect you.’”

Those are the moments in which Edwards disembarks the “rollercoaster of emotion” that carries him into each fight.

Gegard Mousasi (left) is a former Bellator middleweight champion (Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan)

“When I sign the contract, I’m full of energy, I want to hit the road and do a fast run,” he says, “but then it drops down, and I’m just focused throughout camp – calm. Come fight week, there’s excitement, nerves, then it calms down again on fight night. It is a rollercoaster of emotions, you know?”

Each time, the ride charts a new path.

“It’s always different. You think it’s gonna be the same, you really do. Then you get there, and you never know what you’re gonna feel like. Whatever emotions I go through, I always tell myself, ‘It’s normal to be feeling nervous,’ but once you get in there, you know for a fact you’ll be okay. Once I step foot in the cage, it all goes away. I’ve always said to myself and other guys: Once my confidence goes, I’m done; once I stop believing that I’m gonna be a champion, I’m done.”

Edwards certainly believes that he will be a champion, and that belief would only be bolstered by a win over Mousasi.

Watch Bellator 296: Mousasi vs Edwards live on BBC iPlayer on Friday 12 May from 5pm BST.

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