Leon Edwards and Akonne Wanliss join forces for massive fights at UFC 296 and Oktagon 48

With massive fights on the horizon at UFC 296 and Oktagon 48, Leon Edwards and Akonne Wanliss are working in unison to take over the world.

In a sport as global as MMA, the concept of having two of the best fighters on the planet training in the very same building is almost unheard of. But there’s undeniably something in the water at the Renegade in Birmingham, as the gym has produced a UFC Champion and an actual Jedi capable of utilising the force to demolish his opponents in the cage.

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On August 20, 2022, Edwards produced the greatest comeback in the history of the sport. In the dying seconds of his championship fight with Kamaru Usman, when all hope looked lost, he pushed himself through the fire and pulled off a breathtaking head kick to render his rival unconscious and claim the UFC title.

Consequently, martial artists across the country are desperate to train in his presence, hoping to pick up a piece of the wisdom he’s gained during his inspiring rise to the top.

And it’s fair to say Wanliss falls into this category. With a love of Jaffa Cakes and all things Star Wars, ‘The Jedi’ has established his place as one of the most charismatic characters in the sport. But underneath the amusing antics of dressing up as Darth Maul and twirling a lightsaber around before his fights, stands a man with a rugged determination to reach the pinnacle himself.

Akonne Wanliss is learning from Leon Edwards

With his fight against Jakub Bahnik at the AO Arena in Manchester, on November 4, rapidly approaching, the colourful character is sparring Edwards, in the knowledge that every second he spends with his icon is an opportunity to evolve his game.

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In an exclusive interview with SPORF, he said: “The advice he gives me is, ‘Keep your hands up’, haha. Sparring with the best in the world is great. Every day, we strive to be 1% better; there’s nothing like doing that with the best in the world. It grows me as a fighter. I came to Birmingham to train with this guy. But don’t tell him that.

“I came here because I want to be the best in the world. If there’s anyone in the world you need to model yourself after, it’s definitely him.”

But while the situation benefits Wanliss, it does wonders for Edwards in equal measure. With ‘Rocky’s’ title defence against Colby Covington coming up on December 16, the opportunity to spar with one of the hottest prospects in the game is exactly what he needs to maintain his hunger.

Ultimately, through years of hard work and trading punches in the gym, the pair have developed a bond forged in fire, and they won’t stop until their dream of holding titles simultaneously is complete.

Featured Image Credit: Getty & Akonne Wanliss