LEON EDWARDS used the cash from his newfound UFC fame to buy his nan in Jamaica her first pair of hearing aids.
The MMA star’s journey has taken him from Kingston to Birmingham to the octagon – where he will fight Nate Diaz on Sunday in front of thousands.
When the humble 29-year-old steps into the cage, he will block out the chants to think of his loved ones back in the beautiful chaos of his sprawling home city, Kingston.
The whole of the Jamaican capital will be crowded around their televisions to watch the welterweight clash, including his nan who he has cared for since his meteoric rise.
‘Rocky’ Edwards told SunSport: “I brought my nan to the United Kingdom last year for the summer and it was her first time she had ever been on a plane at the age of 70 odd.
“She struggled with her hearing for a long time so I brought her over and took her to Boots and got her new hearing aids.
"For over 15 years she struggled to hear so to be able to buy her hearing aids, provide for her and my family makes me so proud.
"I think it's every man's main goal and it's what motivates me and keeps me going.
“My nan went back to Kingston though because she hates it here, it was too cold! She missed the hot Caribbean sun.”
The south-eastern shoreline of Jamaica curves inwards and creates a sheltered nook for the capital city of Kingston.
But Edwards was far from sheltered, growing up in a violent neighbourhood and being born to a father who became a gang leader to provide for his family.
Crime, shootings and killings on the streets became normalized to Rocky before his father moved the family to the UK when the UFC star was six-years-old.
His father always tried to make sure he was giving his children a better life, before he was tragically shot dead in a London nightclub when Edwards was age 13.
Rocky now channels his father's mentality when caring for his own eight-year-old son.
He said: “Providing for my son is what keeps me motivated in the gym.
“My father did what he needed to do to provide for his family.
“Coming from hardship I understand you do whatever you have to do for your family.
“It’s been a long road from where I was born but I always believe God brought me here for a reason. I could have ended up anywhere.
“I will write my legacy and my family’s legacy in stone once I have achieved my goals.
“All respect to Diaz but I’ve got big plans ahead of what I want to achieve in my career and in my life.”
Edwards' father’s death pushed him into gang life and crime.
It wasn’t until his mum urged him to try MMA at the age of 17 after they were walking past a newly built gym that he was introduced to the sport.
Once he walked through the gym doors he didn't look back, watching endless fights on TV every day.
It was from his sofa that he witnessed Diaz’s journey, not knowing that one day he would step into the octagon with him.
Edwards said: “I fell in love with it. I was so intrigued by MMA, I started watching it every day on TV.
"It kind of dragged me away from the lifestyle. I was more in the gym than I was out on the streets.
“I am proud of myself to be able change my life and see how far I’ve come.
“Diaz has been around the game for a long time. I remember watching him and his brother Nick.
“To now be in a position to go out there to batter him is going to be amazing.
“Not only for me but mainly for my team, the city of Birmingham and for guys coming under me who aspire to be like me.”
The Brummie bruiser was due to lock horns with Diaz a month ago in the co-main event of UFC 262 in Houston, Texas.
An undisclosed injury for Diaz led to the postponement of the eagerly-anticipated welterweight match-up.
The pair will now face off at UFC 263 at the Gila River Arena in Arizona, for the first five-round non-title co-main event in the sport’s history.
It will be the first time Diaz has set foot inside the octagon since losing his BMF title fight with Jorge Masvidal at Madison Square Garden in 2019.
But high-flying Edwards, who is undefeated in his last nine fights, still respects the Stockton-born 36-year-old.
He said: “I think he has always been the same way from the beginning.
“He always speaks his mind and is willing to fight anybody, it’s not all about the Instagram followers.
"I liked him when I was starting out but obviously we’re going to fight and I’m going out there to take his head off.
“Some people start acting weird and do random stuff once they get fame and money but he’s always been the same guy since I’ve been watching him.
“I’d love to go out there and finish him. He’s never been knocked out clean so it would be good to put that on my record and put me in line for a title shot.
“If he underestimates me he’s in for a rude awakening. I’m young and in shape and this is the best I’ve felt leading up to fight.”
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