- Fabian Edwards credits mum for ‘champion mentality’ before Johnny Eblen title fight.
In 2004, around four years after moving from Jamaica to Britain, his father was killed in a shooting in London, leaving his mum to bring up Edwards and his older brother Leon alone.
At his Team Renegade gym in Birmingham, 30-year-old Edwards, speaks warmly about the impact his mother had on his upbringing.
“She’s in a foreign country, my dad passed after a year or two of being in this foreign country, and she had two kids, no education, and she just had to get on with it,” said Edwards.
“Through her doing that and being tough and having to make things happen, I just learned from that. She instilled that head down, work and you’ll get to where you want to type of mentality in both of us.
“My mum is a strong woman so to have someone like that, who’s been through life and a lot of hardship, it means a lot to have that around.”
Edwards has the chance to join brother Leon – the UFC welterweight title holder – as a world champion when he faces Johnny Eblen for the middleweight belt on Saturday at Bellator 299 in Dublin,.
Never before have two siblings held world titles simultaneously in separate major MMA promotions.
Edwards’ mum won’t be in attendance at the 3Arena to watch her son’s attempt at history, but she will be watching at home in Birmingham.
“She’s never been to watch it because she finds it so scary seeing her boys in there,” said Edwards.
“But she watches it live on television, and even then when she’s watching it she’s going crazy.
“Sometimes my auntie will be secretly recording, and some of the movements she does… she’s on top of the sofa going crazy, and my auntie will show me some of the reactions and it’s just hilarious.”
Following Leon’s win over Kamaru Usman last August for the UFC welterweight title, the brothers came together to buy their mum a traditional Caribbean restaurant in Birmingham.
Should Edwards beat American Eblen on Saturday, he’s already planned what he wants to buy her next.
“I’ll just keep on providing, we’re always willing to help,” said Edwards.
“We both chipped in, she always wanted to have a restaurant, so we managed to make that come true. The next stage is to both chip in and get her a house.”
‘Fabian has the tools to be world champion’
Head coach Dave Lovell first met Edwards around the age of 16 when he walked into their old gym in Birmingham.
Lovell has worked with Edwards for the entirety of his MMA career, which has yielded 12 wins from 14 professional bouts.
In that time, he’s watched Edwards mature as both a fighter and a person.
“He’s a very laid-back, calm character. But he can more than look out for himself, and it’s good to see that he’s channelled it into a sport that he can excel in and [where] he can express himself that way,” said Lovell.
“Being around lads that have been doing this thing longer than him at a higher level has humbled him.
“That’s been an issue for him sometimes over the years – sometimes he’s a bit strong-headed and wants to rush in, but now he’s started to watch, learn and listen and that is a key factor of a great champion.”
Lovell has been in Leon’s corner throughout his UFC championship reign and thinks Edwards can emulate his brother, despite differences in the pair’s personalities.
“Leon is very quiet. Leon is an inward character, whereas Fabian is a little bit more out,” said Lovell.
“Fabian will talk up for himself, where Leon will if prodded and pushed, but Fabian will put it to you how he’s feeling – he’s a bit more forward in his mannerisms.
“That’s his character. Brothers, but totally different.”
Lovell adds that seeing Fabian fight feels like “watching his son”.
“It’s not just that trainer-fighter bond, it’s more than that, it goes deeper than that, because I’ve known these kids since they were 16 or 17,” he said.
“I’ve watched them grow, I’ve watched them develop into men, develop into top-quality fighters, so that gives me great pride and for him to win it would be like a parent seeing his son at university when they graduate.”
‘Eblen’s a normal human being – I see holes in his game’
Edwards has won his last three fights heading into the bout with Eblen, including victory over former Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi in May.
But in the 31-year-old American, he faces a man who has never lost in his 13-fight career.
Eblen’s nickname is the ‘Human Cheat Code’, but Edwards is treating the bout just like any other.
“I think a lot of people are trying to make him better than what he is, but I look at him as a normal human, and I see holes in his game,” said Edwards.
“I’ve envisioned this fight – I see the second or third round, me stopping him. Or it being five rounds but a masterclass.”
Edwards’ full focus has been on preparing for Eblen, but when he gets a few moments to himself in his car, he has allowed his mind to drift occasionally to the prospect of life as a champion.
“I can’t say I feel happy because it’s more than happy. I’m over the moon, but I’ve worked hard, I’ve been working hard in training for years, so I’m happy to finally put myself in this position,” said Edwards.
“I keep driving around and when I look at my passenger seat, I keep picturing [the belt] in my passenger seat, and people in the back seats. And I keep smiling, thinking ‘yeah, I’ve done it’.”