· On the Spot ~ Justin Edwards
The most important thing for a UFC fighter to do? Win fights. But even on top of winning, a fighter who can impress UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva can keep the “UFC fighter” moniker attached to his name even if he has a slip up or two. One such fighter who has seemed to win over White and Silva is Justin “Fast Eddy” Edwards (6-1, 0-1 UFC), a Bellefontaine, Ohio-based fighter who made his way into the UFC through “The Ultimate Fighter 13.”
Originally an alternate on TUF 13, Edwards made his way onto the show early in the season when one fighter decided to go home before even fighting. One fighter’s missed opportunity is another’s to grab by the horns, and Edwards did just that by being impressive enough in his loss to eventual season winner Tony Ferguson to earn a slot in the wild card round. Unfortunately for him, the commission didn’t allow him to fight and he didn’t get another shot inside the TUF house.
Edwards did get a shot in the UFC, however, as he faced fellow TUF 13 contestant Clay Harvison on the TUF 13 finale. The two waged a back-and-forth battle, and while Harvison was awarded a razor thin split decision, Edwards was impressive enough to earn yet another shot inside the Octagon, and he’ll get that shot this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 25 against newcomer Jorge Lopez (11-1, 0-0 UFC).
Edwards got his start in MMA after starring as a high school wrestler in Mansfield, Ohio, and he began training at the Iron Tiger Gym with noted kickboxer Scott Sheeley, who has competed all around the world in striking competitions. Soon after he began his MMA career, Edwards also started training at the Jorge Gurgel Academy in Cincinnati with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel and one of the top grappling camps in the Midwest, giving him a well-rounded training regimen. Edwards used that double-barreled attack to rack up six first round stoppages in six outings, earning himself the slot on TUF.
David McKinney was recently able to catch up with Edwards to discuss his career thus far and his fight at UFN 25 against Jorge Lopez.
David McKinney: Let’s talk about how you came into the UFC through being on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Can you talk about your experience on “The Ultimate Fighter,” coming in as an alternate, and becoming a favorite of UFC President Dana White through your performance in the house?
Justin Edwards: You know, when I first came in I was a little discouraged because I wasn’t on the original cast, and I thought that I was good enough. But it was one of those things where I was one of the top prospects in the country, and it’s a reality show, so it’s not always about who the best fighters are. They just have a pool of the best fighters and they pick who they can market. So I kind of came in with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, but it’s one of those things that opened up a lot of doors and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
DM: This will be your second official fight in the UFC, as you lost a split decision to Clay Harvison at the TUF 13 finale. Can you talk a little bit about that fight?
JE: The Harvison fight was kind of a unique fight, because we were friends coming into it, and we knew what each other could bring to the table, so we knew it was going to be a good fight. We worked on some specific areas to try to get a good game plan going, and I think I went for more takedowns than I wanted to in the first round and kind of gassed my arms out. I gave myself the first round, the second round I wasn’t as active, and the third round was a toss up. It’s my job as a fighter to either finish the fight or prove to the judges that I won the fight, and I obviously didn’t do enough for them to score that in my favor in their eyes. It’s not like I have hard feelings for Clay or anything, because I didn’t do what I could do, but it’s one of those things, in my opinion it was a war and a hard-fought fight and I really enjoy fighting the way I did. And if I had to fight him again I probably would do the same exact thing to be honest.
DM: You talked about being friends with Clay. Is it hard for you to go in and fight a guy you actually like?
JE: I go out there, and once I’m in the cage, it doesn’t matter, whether you’re one of my good friends or I like you, I’m going out there to compete to win. Me and Clay both have our eyes set on the same thing and that’s to eventually become champion in the UFC. I’m not going to harbor and kind of ill will against him to get to his goal, but that’s not going to stop me from going hard or I’m not going to go easy on him. It’s one of those things, you know, I’m a sore loser so I’m going to do anything I can to win.
DM: You’re now going into what will be your second official UFC fight against Jorge Lopez at UFC Fight Night 25. Can you talk about what you know about him going into this fight?
JE: I know he has a history of being a wrestler when he was in high school. I know he’s a mostly a standup guy and he trains out of Wanderlei [Silva’s] gym. He’s really tall, really explosive, and he seems to be really patient and a counter striker. I’m more of a come forward guy. I think it’s going to be a great fight. He’s young, he’s athletic, he’s hungry. I think that we’ve watched enough film on the kid where we’ve kind of picked out some weaknesses on his end and we’re going to put that in our game plan.
DM: Can you talk about your training camp going into this fight? I know you do your striking with Scott Sheeley and your grappling with Jorge Gurgel.
JE: Jorge Gurgel is like an affiliate school, so I spend half my time there and half my time up at Sheeley’s. I think the drive time is like two hours, and I live in Bellefontaine, so I base my camp at Sheeley’s, but there’s not a normal week where I don’t go down to Cincinnati [to the JG Academy]. I base my standup work and my mitt work and I do all of my kickboxing at Sheeley’s, and I go down to Jorge’s to roll with his black belts down there like Jon Stutzman, so I know my game is going to improve. It’s also nice to get a good look from both different camps. If you train with the same people all the time it’s kind of hard to progress as a fighter. So since I train at different camps I always get different looks with different people coming in. For me, I think it’s the best of both worlds.
DM: What is the advantage to being able to train at two world-class camps that have completely different mind-sets?
JE: For me, in the position I’m in, I couldn’t ask for anything better. You could go to a place like American Top Team where they have all that, but everything I do standup at Sheeley’s I take down with me to do at Jorge’s, and vice versa. We kind of just mend the two together, and also with my wrestling, I also work with a lot of good wrestlers. If I could I’d recommend it to people, but a lot of people can’t afford the drive or make the sacrifice. I also get good looks from some good guys: Matt Brown, Jorge [Gurgel], Rich [Franklin], all these different looks and all these areas of expertise, couldn’t ask for anything more.
DM: Do you have a prediction for the fight?
JE: The majority of my wins come pretty early. I like to finish guys, I like to finish fights. You know, winning the hearts of Dana White and Joe Silva, they like me because I’m an exciting fighter. People like to see my fights. You get a guy who is a good wrestler who just lays on guys for three rounds, or a guy who runs from everybody, people don’t want to see that. I think me and Jorge we’re both explosive fighters and we’re both hungry, so I think there will be a lot of fireworks. I’d like to finish it early, but I’m more than prepared to go three rounds with the guy.
DM: Anybody you’d like to thank?
JE: I’d like to thank both of my camps: Scott Sheeley and Iron Tiger and Jorge Gurgel MMA, School of Fight, and my family and friends for all of the support that I’ve been getting. Hopefully I’ll do Ohio proud.