Light heavyweight fighter Anthony Smith commented about the plan of welterweight champion Leon Edwards to move to the middleweight division. According to “Lionheart,” the champ must first face the contenders in his division, adding “Rocky” only wants to move because Khamzat Chimaev is not the current middleweight champion.
In his latest interview with Michael Bisping, Smith aired his opinion about the matter, stressing that Edwards must first defend his title on several occasions and give other fighters the chance to face him. Lionheart then mentioned some fellow fighters who are approaching their title shots.
“I think you’ve got to clear out your division,” Smith told Bisping. “Leon moving up, that one hits a little harder than some of the previous ones. Like, come on, dude. I like Leon a lot, big Leon fan, but he’s only ever fought Kamaru Usman in title fights. There are a lot of title challengers coming. You got his next fight with Colby, Belal is going to be in there.
“There’s some up-and-comers. There’s Shavkat (Rakhmonov), Ian Garry. There’s guys we got to keep rolling. Gilbert Burns is right there. He’s one win away from a title shot. He’s got a tough list of people coming his way. I just don’t know if now is the time to move up.”
In line with this, Smith explained that Edwards’ only motivation for the move is Sean Strickland being the current champion. The fighter believes Edwards thinks he could handle the champ but said the plan wouldn’t be the same if Khamzat Chimaev had the belt.
“Of course, he’s going to want to move up right now,” Smith said. “If Khamzat was the champion, I don’t know if we’d see Leon running to middleweight so quickly, but I think we have a champion in Sean Strickland that he believes matches up well with him, and it stylistically makes a lot of sense. I agree with some of the frustration. Listen, if I had a world title, maybe I’d do the same sh*t.”
Despite Smith’s belief that a champ Chimaev could prevent Edwards from moving to the middleweight, Rocky has always been open about the idea of fighting Borz in the welterweight someday. In January, prior to his trilogy fight against Usman, Edwards included Chimaev as one of the fighters he would like to defeat in the future.
“He’s on my list as well that I want to take out,” Edwards said. “So let him go make weight, probably fight Colby (Covington) or something like that, and we can run that on as well.”
To recall, the welterweight fight between Edwards and Chimaev was arranged by UFC three times, but all were canceled afterward due to some issues. The bout was first introduced in 2020, with UFC planning a fight for the two in December of that year. However, Edwards contracted coronavirus and withdrew. Later, UFC tried rescheduling the date to January 2021, but Chimaev tested positive for the virus. The third attempt at the promotion to set in March was also called off after UFC president Dana White said that Chimaev was still suffering from the effects of COVID-19.