© Marc Wickert
All photos copyright 2004 Zuffa
Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Yves Edwards is one of the most colourful fighters in Mixed Martial Arts, and is certainly a worthy contender for a UFC lightweight title. At 155 lbs and standing 5í10", Yves started training in traditional Karate as a kid. When he got older, Edwards dabbled in Kung Fu before he discovered MMA. Thatís when he added Thai Boxing to his dynamic repertoire.
"Iíve always liked the old Hong Kong flicks, and I was a big comic book fan: you know the Superheroes, they were always big in my mind. Anything that will make me physically better than the average person, and teach me to do things that the average person canít do, I was game for it. And as I learned more about fighting as an art, I just wanted to become better and better, and one day, hopefully be the best."
Some of this larger-than-life influence is reflected in Yvesís presence today as he struts down the catwalk to enter the Octagon, wearing a black Texan hat and Batman boxer shorts. When Edwards comes to town, he brings an exciting blend of showmanship and sophisticated fighting skills that he picked up partly in the Bahamas and partly from when he relocated to Texas.
"It was just before my fifteenth birthday. I remember having my fifteenth birthday in Houston. I went back to the Bahamas for one year when I was seventeen, and Iíve been living in Houston ever since. I learned a little bit of grappling in the Bahamas: the rear naked choke, the arm bar. Of course it wasnít as technical as it should have been, but it was better than not getting anything."
A feature of Yvesís fights is the element of surprise. Being one of the most well-rounded competitors in MMA, Edwardsís opponents are often kept off guard by his approach.
"I definitely try to use different tactics. I love to use a lot of feints, and if I see an opening for one of my explosive attacks, I will definitely try to capitalize on it: a flying knee, a head kick or something like that. I love to be faster than my opponent and do things he doesnít see, and then exploit those things."
Yves also specializes in taking adversaries out of their comfort zone. He says most guys donít want to fight him toe-to-toe, so he definitely tries to keep the fight standing.
"It takes a lot of energy to take someone down and then try to dominate them without just holding them down, passing their guard, and getting an improved position. So that takes a lot of energy, and it takes a lot less energy to escape that. When theyíre making those transitions, you find an opening and stand back on your feet. That wears on their mind and they think, ĎMan, it just took me all that energy to take him down and now heís back on his feet already. And now Iíve got to do it all over again.í Itís a mental game and I love playing that game."
At UFC 43:Meltdown, Yves faced Tank Abbott protťgť Eddie Ruiz. This proved to be one of the hardest battles fought in the Octagon, with Ruiz refusing to stop his attack, despite what Edwards threw at him. At one time Yves caught Eddie with a high kick to the head that could be heard in the bleachers. But anyone who trains with Tank has to be made of tough mettle.
"It was mostly my instep I hit him with. I was throwing it, and I actually didnít think it was going to land, so I was kind of pulling out of it. And when it did land, I thought. ĎMan that sucks.í It surprised me that he kept coming. I thought that it would have at least stunned him. But it was better than nothing. Hopefully I learned something from that: Never hold back again.
"I look for the big shots - especially when I throw them to the head. Iím doing it with malicious intent. Iím trying to finish somebody off when I throw those."
Another of Yvesís favourite techniques is the body triangle, which he also used against Eddie Ruiz to great advantage in UFC 43. This is a hold Edwards uses in much the same way a snake wraps its body around a victim and strangles it by slowly contracting.
"Itís one of my favourite holding positions when Iím on someoneís back, because it allows me rest, Iím constricting their lungs, and itís hard for them to escape. Theyíve got to really, really work to escape that, and basically itís impossible to escape and defend the choke at the same time."
Training at Woodlands, Texas, under the guidance of Lewis Wood, Evander Holyfield boxing trainer Kenny Weldon, and Timothy Credeur, Edwardsís fighting discipline is listed as "Thugjitsu".
"Thugjitsu is two things to me: Itís the modern art of the beat-downs and itís also the greatest show on earth. Itís really taking somebody out of their game. All the guys that train with me, we all identify with Thugjitsu, but we all have different styles. Some guys are a lot more aggressiveÖWe have a really good Jiu Jitsu guy: If he takes you to the ground and you donít tap, stuff is broken. Myself, I love to knock guys out. Itís just finding whatís a weakness in your opponent compared to your strength, and just exploiting it. Thatís basically what Thugjitsu is."
On August 21, Yves will be opposing Josh Thomson at UFC 49: Unfinished Business.
"I expect a good, tough fight. Heís a real good fighter and a smart fighter. The only thing is, I donít think itís the brightest idea that heís intending on standing up with me. I just think that is a really bad idea. But if he does it, then Iím going to give you guys some fireworks.
"If he does stand up with me, one of two things is going to happen: Either Iím going to change his mind, or heís going to change his mind. If he doesnít do that before he gets knocked out, I may have to win it on the ground. Or Iíll bring it back to the stand-up arena and knock him out. But Iíll cross that bridge when I get there."
Are you the best 155-pound fighter and the most well-rounded in UFC?
"Iím the best lightweight in the world. Yes I am. And I think Iím the most well-rounded. I donít have any holes in my game. Of course, there are parts of my game that can still be stronger, but thatís the beauty of this sportÖ Iíll never be 100%. Iíll never be perfect, but I like where Iím at and I like my rate of improvement."
People look back on the sixties as being exciting times in music, and Yves agrees the present time is similarly an exciting period for MMA.
"I think so. I think things are going well. The only downer for me right now is that Iím not fighting for the belt. I guess Zuffa has some other plans, and hopefully theyíll decide the lightweights deserve a belt, and Iíll be one of the guys they consider, considering my record and that I am the best 155-pounder in the world. Iíve beaten everybody theyíve put in front of me and Iíll beat the next guy they put in front of me."
Yves, is there anything youíd like to add?
"I want to thank all the fans in Australia. Iím just a kid from the Bahamas. The only thing I thought I had in common with the people from Australia was the beach and the beautiful waters, but I really appreciate all the fans over the world. And I canít believe that someone like me has people as far away as Australia who appreciate what I do. And I just appreciate them."
For more on Yves Edwards: www.thugjitsu.com
For more on UFC 49: Unfinished Business Ė www.ufc.tv