LEON EDWARDS hopes his stunning UFC title triumph will inspire the kids in his hometown to snub a life of crime and follow their dreams.
Edwards’ triumph completed a fairytale rise to glory, which never would have started had his mum not thrown him into MMA to keep him off the streets.
And he hopes it’ll encourage those on the wrong path to get on the straight and narrow and follow their passions.
‘Rocky’ told SunSport: “It’s a prideful thing and something that I wear on my sleeve – to try to give back and try to show other kids that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
“If you find something you love, it doesn’t have to be MMA, it could be anything, just dedicate yourself to it, make a plan and work hard.
“You can achieve something. You don’t have to die where you start. That’s not it.
“I understand it’s hard because I was once there and you feel like the world is against you.
“Especially being black as well, that’s even double as hard.
“It’s difficult, but it can be done.”
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Being a beacon for kids comping up the same way he did has been a driving force behind Edwards for several years.
And he takes even greater pride in having not left Birmingham to fulfil his dreams.
He said: “For me, like you said, that was one of my main motivations that drives me, apart from my family that’s number one.
“After that, it’s the kids that grew up similar to how I grew up – similar backgrounds.
“Or have either been involved in crime or single parents or poverty.
“So for me, I like doing it from Birmingham because they see me every day.
“I’m with them every day hanging around and talking to them.
“It’s easy for them to touch me and say, ‘He did it and he’s like one of the worst back in the day.’
“‘He’s from a similar background to us.’”
Edwards will bid to retain his title in an eagerly-anticipated trilogy fight with Usman in March – which serve as the main event of UFC 286.
Unlike their Salt Lake City showdown, Edwards will have home advantage over The Nigerian Nightmare as their clash will take place at London’s O2 Arena.
The series decider has not been officially announced but is expected to be in the coming weeks.
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