Bellator 287: Fabian Edwards ‘holds back tears’ after beating Lyoto Machida

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Venue: Allianz Cloud Arena, Milano Date: Saturday October 29
Cover: Live coverage on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 5.30pm BST, with the main card also live on BBC Three from 9.00pm BST

Fabian Edwards had to fight back tears when he beat Lyoto Machida in May.

The 29-year-old Birmingham fighter got his career off to a perfect start, winning his first nine fights. Then he lost the next two.

With his unbeaten streak gone and his momentum derailed, Edwards knew a third straight loss would see his fighting stock plummet.

Edwards, who takes on Charlie Ward at Bellator 287 in Milan on Saturday, said he was emotional after the win over Machida in London because he was not just fighting for himself, he was fighting for his family.

“There was pressure because you go six, seven years in the sport, unbeaten, then you lose two fights, and everyone says you’re done,” he told BBC Sport.

“Everyone doubts you, even though you know inside that you have years left in the sport.

“After that fight, I had to hold back a few tears. When I was in the cage on my knees, I had to hold it back because I have kids and that’s how I earn my income. I knew that going into this fight, I had to win no matter what, for me, my family.”

His confidence took a hit after the loss to Austin Vanderford last May, but Edwards used the experience to his advantage.

Edwards says he learned valuable lessons that helped him enter the contest with Machida as the better fighter.

“When you’re undefeated you worry so much about not losing, but once you’re defeated you’re like ‘you know what, I’m going to take those risks. I lost anyway so if I lose again , it’s going to tear me apart, but don’t let the fear of losing keep you from performing.”

“In both losses I was too reserved, like I didn’t want to make a mistake. Go ahead, enjoy it and be free.”

“I learned from the experience of Leon’s title”

Mixed martial arts are practiced in the family. Edwards’ older brother, Leon stunned Kamaru Usman in August to win the UFC welterweight title, becoming only the second British champion in fight promotion history.

Edwards was on his older brother’s coaching staff in Salt Lake City, Utah and was by his side during fight week – an experience he says he benefited from.

After the celebrations, Edwards returned home to begin training for his fight against Ward.

“I learned how calm and professional he was [Leon] has been. Nothing was forced and I learned that and incorporated it into my training,” he said.

“Sometimes I train too much, I get too crazy and I end up getting injured or fighting a bit flat. So I saw how he handled his fight week, which kind of calmed me down. a little.”

Edwards’ Muay Thai trainer Henry Cleminson trains both brothers.

“Eyes on the prize, they’re both the same, they both have tunnel vision,” Cleminson told BBC Sport.

“Leon is a very skilled, methodical, very measured fighter. Fabian is too, but I think Fabian can also be a ram. It’s not a negative thing – Fabian could walk through a brick wall if he did. wanted. That’s what he does with Machida.

“But I train them both very similarly, so they both develop good ranged and close shots, good movement and good angles, so they’re very similar in a way.”

If Edwards defeats Ireland’s Ward, he will be in a strong position to challenge for the title, currently held by American Johnny Eblen.

Edwards, second in the Bellator middleweight rankings, takes on a 41-year-old opponent from Ward, who is on a three-fight winning streak.

Although he says he doesn’t neglect Ward, Edwards admits he imagined a scene where he holds a world title alongside his brother.

“I was saying I wonder when I win the title if I’m going to cry? Because we don’t really cry people,” he said.

“But I probably will because when you love something and put your all into it, and you achieve that goal that you’ve been chasing for so many years, once you achieve it, the emotion will be released.

“So yeah, I’ve thought about that a few times.”

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