Yves Edwards (right) throws an uppercut at Mark Hominick during their lightweight bout at UFC 58: USA vs. Canada in March 2006. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Less than a year ago, things were falling apart for Yves Edwards.
With a fighter of his overall skill level, you’d think it was impossible. Holding wins over some of the best fighters in the world, Edwards led the Ultimate Fighting Championship into the new generation as it’s unofficial lightweight champion. After leaving the organization to try his hand over in Japan, Edwards continued to win.
Then a highly-anticipated return to the UFC didn’t go so well. Two straight losses ensued and Edwards found himself on the outside looking in once again. A decision loss to Mike Brown while with BodogFight was nothing to be alarmed about, but then came the brutal knockout against Jorge Masvidal. Edwards knew he had to do something.
“For a while in Houston, I had that. We had guys go in all the time working out. We had good, high?level guys working out all the time,” Edwards said during a recent conference call with the media. “But guys started moving away. Guys moved back to Brazil and Louisiana. Guys fell off, and I was kind of left alone. That’s when I started losing.”
Edwards joined forces with Florida-based American Top Team last fall, widely regarded as one of the top camps in the sport.
With a roster of training partners that stretches from two-time K-1 Hero’s tournament champion Gesias Cavalcante to current UFC welterweight title contender Thiago Alves, Edwards no longer has to worry about mustering up a group of fighters just to get a workout in. Every training session brings forth a world-class workout.
“The biggest thing is having world class guys all the time every single day,” said Edwards. “The thing for me with American Top Team, I don’t have to make phone calls and worry about who is going to show up and try to round up a crew to get together for the day. That’s been the big difference for me, besides the fact that everybody in there brings something to the table.”
“We have a lot of really good coaches that have helped sharpen my game up quite a bit,” Edwards continued. “It just exposes you to what you’re weak at. So where your game is not strong, you can work on getting it stronger at that point.”
Since finding his new home, Edwards has racked up three straight wins. Two of them have been inside the confines of Elite Xtreme Combat, where he most recently scored an impressive knockout of James Edson Berto. The pair of wins under the watch of Gary Shaw has earned Edwards a shot at the promotion’s lightweight title, currently held by former training partner K.J. Noons, this weekend in Hawaii.
“I’m looking at this fight as a really tough one,” Edwards said. “I’ve heard things, and you get on the internet and you hear, ‘oh, Yves will kill this guy,’ or ‘KJ destroyed this guy’, you know. K.J. beat up Nick Diaz, man. So for anybody that doesn’t have faith in K.J., you know, that still stands. That still holds true. He beat up Nick Diaz. So that’s a guy that I have to fear for.”
While the two are former training partners, the last time they worked out together was almost a decade ago. They have remained good friends but Edwards contends that they will have no problem punching each other in the face Saturday night.
“We did workout back in the day,” said Edwards. “But I don’t think either one of us is going back to that time and thinking, you know, I need to key in on these things from that time. It was too long ago. I’ve still got a lot of respect for KJ. This is the one fight I want him to lose. In everything else, I want him to do well. I like the kid a lot. I’m just really excited about this fight.”
With Noons comes the danger of going up against one of the lightweight division’s best strikers. Noons has trained with some of the best in the world and his success early on in his career nearly resulted in a trip to the PRIDE Fighting Championships if not for a temporary switch to professional boxing.
However some have already pinned Noons as a one-dimensional fighter. The majority of his fights haven’t seen much of the canvas and it’s a pattern that Edwards hasn’t overlooked.
“How important is it to get the fight on the ground? I honestly don’t know yet,” Edwards said. “My stand?up is good. There may come a time I decide the stand?up is not where I want to play the game, but that might not happen. This is an MMA fight. I know what KJ’s weakness is… I don’t necessarily know what his weakness is, but I think my ground fighting is better. But that’s not the only place I’m going to fight him. It’s going to be an all?around thing.”
Regardless of the caliber of his opponent, Edwards realizes that the fight against Noons is one of, if not the most important of his career at this point. After a string of bad losses in recent years, he also knows that he needs to continue doing well in order to remain a viable contender and an option for big-time fights despite starting to exit the prime of his career.
“Definitely this fight is the biggest of my career up to date,” Edwards stated. “As far as goals for my career, I want to leave this game with a legacy. I want to be talked about when my son is my age. When my son is 25 years old and he’s doing whatever it is he’s doing, if he decides he wants to fight, I want people to say he’s better than his dad. But I want his dad to be great.”
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