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Wolverhampton children still waiting to train with UFC star Leon Edwards

UFC star Leon Edwards has yet to meet the underprivileged Wolverhampton children he promised to train last year as part of an anti-knife campaign.

UFC star Leon Edwards
UFC star Leon Edwards

The Birmingham fighter is on the verge of superstardom if he beats welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in Salt Lake City in America on Saturday.

However, despite appearing in a documentary which showed Edwards at The Way Youth Zone, the youngsters who use the Wolverhampton youth centre are still waiting to train with their hero.

After a spate of murders last Spring The UFC announced it would partner with Onside Youth Zones to deliver a youth mentoring scheme with youngsters who are in danger of straying into a life of crime.

Liverpool fighter Darren Till, London based Jimi Manuwa and Leon Edwards, who moved to Erdington from Jamaica as a child, promised to get involved with youngsters.

Leon said: "I’ll be there teaching martial arts. Jimi, Darren are all going to be there. My coaches are going to be there teaching martial arts. So it’s a close thing to my heart. It’s important to me, and I’m looking forward to it.

"Basically, I’ll be a mentor. I’ll be there on feet and ground teaching the classes, talking with the kids. The UFC is helping to provide kits for the kids, like gloves, shin pads and trying to do a scholarship kind of thing. If we can save one of them, I’m happy with that and that’s my main goal at the moment.

But no sessions have yet been held at The Way, Wolverhampton since the scheme was launched in May, 2021. Onside Youth Zones confirmed Edwards had not met any children or held any training sessions but he had visited the centre out of hours to drop off some of equipment for "a documentary".

A spokesman for Onside said: "The visit wasn’t a session with young people – Leon was visiting to hand over some equipment as part of the partnership between OnSide and the UFC."

The documentary, which was made by the UFC to promote the pay per view fight, was released on Monday it already has nearly a million views.

Cameras followed Edwards into The Way, which was empty, and he thanked staff for all their hard work and talked about how he "wants to give back" to youngsters who are from similar backgrounds than him.

The Way’s CEO Jackie Redding said: "We are really excited to be a part of OnSide’s partnership with the UFC. To have Leon himself pop down with the equipment was brilliant, we are really excited to kick off the mentoring programme later this year.

"We’d also like to wish Leon a huge good luck for his title fight in August – everyone at The Way is behind him and are so grateful for his and the UFC’s support."

A Wolverhampton parent, who did not want to be named, said he had been checking on both Edwards and The Way's social media for a year for details about the mentoring.

He said: "My boy is UFC mad so when he heard he could be mentored by Leon Edwards he was over the moon, in fact we used the prospect of the scheme to improve his behaviour.

"I was originally worried he would not get into the sessions, first because they would be oversubscribed and then The Way was closed for a few months but now as each month went by I've started to think its never going to happen especially if he becomes champ.

"When we heard he had come to the centre with a documentary crew with no kids around it dawned on me this was a big media exercise, I've been through social media of Darren Till and there are no posts of him doing it either."

The Express and Star has approached Leon Edwards for a comment.

Four time Muay Thai champion Shamir Hussain, a martial arts historian and parent to two children who are UFC fans, said he is disappointed at the delay.

He said: "Edwards is a brilliant fighter and a credit to the Midlands but my children were really disappointed by him not coming to Wolverhampton.

"The kids he wanted to help have been let down by so many people already."

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