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From Las Vegas brawl to UFC 302: How Ailin Perez vs. Joselyne Edwards grew into a heated grudge match

June 2nd, 2024

UFC 302 is filled with plenty of big fights, yet the bout with the most heat and bad blood is flying under the radar.

On the preliminary card of Saturday’s event in Newark, N.J., Ailin Perez and Joselyne Edwards will finally get to throw down after months of trash talk online and a heated incident that left both with a sour taste. The beef between Perez (9-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) and Edwards (13-5 MMA, 4-3 UFC) didn’t start long after the two first met.

According to Edwards, a common friend reached out to her to see if she could help Perez get around Las Vegas, as it was her first time in in the city following her UFC debut in September 2022.

“When he told me his friend was Ailin Perez, I was like, ‘Hmm,” Edwards told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “She’s in my division, and the girl is problematic. I hadn’t seen her debut, which I think it was on short notice, but I had seen things online that the girl was problematic.

“Regardless, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to be a good person. I’m well mannered, and I’ve traveled the world and had difficulties and many people have guided me and helped me, so I said, ‘OK, yeah. Give her my number.’”

Edwards didn’t like Perez too much from what she saw on social media but obliged to lend her a hand when she could, letting her know how the UFC Performance Institute worked and even introducing her to her coaches at Xtreme Couture. Edwards admits she was a little distant with Perez, but she was respectful and helped her with whatever she needed. After Perez left Las Vegas, the two kept somewhat kept in contact and texted each other.

‘She attacked me because she’s jealous’

In April 2023, a few months after their initial meeting, Edwards fought and defeated Lucie Pudilova in a controversial split decision. She received plenty of hate online, but nothing bothered her more than reading Perez’s comments.

“They showed me some messages she wrote publicly, and that’s her opinion, that’s OK,” Edwards said. “Even after my last fights, she also commented and the way she does it, it’s like she wants to make it funny, but at the same time you’re talking sh*t. And that’s fine, that’s her opinion, but if you see me, don’t even come say hi because that’s being a hypocrite.”

Perez admits criticizing Edwards’ decision win but said she was just answering questions and did it in an analytical manner. Regardless, that didn’t sit well with Edwards, and their differences hit a boiling point a few months later in November when they saw each other again at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.

“I ran into her at the PI, and she was like, ‘Hey, how are you? Come here and say hi,’” Edwards said as she recalled the moments before the brawl broke out. “I don’t like that hypocrisy. I told her, ‘Hey, just win your fight because you talk a lot of sh*t. You have a big mouth.’

“She was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ She didn’t remember the things she said. I told her, ‘You said this and that,’ and she said, ‘Well, that’s my opinion.’ OK, that’s her opinion, but here you are trying to give me a hug and say hi to me, idiot.”

Edwards didn’t think the animosity between them would end up in a fight, and she was surprised to find herself trading blows with Perez and her coach.

“I promise you my intention was not to fight her,” Edwards said. “It was her trainer who began to heat things up and insult me. So what happened? She was like, ‘Well, if you’re so tough, come say it to my face.’

“My intention wasn’t to hit her. I just went to say it to her face, so when I get close – we’re arguing – she makes a movement like she’s going to hit me, so I hit her. But she’s the one that made the first move.”

Both women claim the other attacked first. Perez was left with a cut on her cheek bone that required stitches and almost jeopardized her fight with Pudilova, which was just a few days away.

“She attacked me at the UFC PI where I was doing my fight week to fight against Lucie (Pudilova) – which I take as a coward move to go and hit someone who’s with their team and their son,” Perez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “She didn’t need to be there. It’s my moment, my space. She attacked me because she’s jealous.”

‘He was choking me’

Both Edwards and Perez acknowledge Perez’ male trainer got involved soon after the two started fighting. Perez said it was to stop Edwards from attacking her, and Edwards said it was to gang up on her.

“He was choking me, and it wasn’t just to hold me. He was hurting me and trying to choke me out,” Edwards explained. “I fell forward on top of Ailin with her trainer on my back, and Alex Davis, trainer of Amanda Ribas, he saw everything. … If two people are arguing, OK. But you as a trainer, you have to split things up. She has a fight, but instead he joined the fight. So he ended up on my back and wouldn’t let me go, so she (Ailin) got taken off me or ran out. I don’t remember well, and she went to security.

“So anyway, Ailin wasn’t at the scene, and he was choking me saying, ‘B*tch, I’m going to put you to sleep. B*tch I’m going to put you to sleep.’ … Alex told him to let me go, I was about to go to sleep, but he kept choking me, so Alex and I think Amanda Ribas’ dad took him off me. I could barely breathe. He tried coming at me again, but they stopped him.”

UFC decides to settle beef in the cage

Perez went on to fight and defeat Pudilova that weekend in one of her best career performances. The UFC was made aware of the brawl but didn’t proceed with any disciplinary action. Instead, just a few months later, Perez and Edwards received contracts to fight each other professionally.

“This is going to be my highest paid career fight against the easiest opponent, so I’m extremely happy for that,” Perez said.

“Now she’s going to get what she deserves. I’m training with a different purpose, which is to get revenge on her for injuring my eye. Either way, I already beat her mentally. I won that fight with an injured eye, and I felt like Maradona.”

Perez wasn’t the only one happy with the booking. Edwards was delighted to hear she had drawn Perez as her next opponent.

“I never had her in mind, but after the incident I wanted to fight her,” Edwards said. “… I had asked for it in an interview, but I never said anything to the UFC. Then my manager called me saying I got offered Ailin Perez and I said, ‘You can even sign the contract. You know that’s a yes for sure.’ I think UFC wanted to put it together.”

The two haven’t crossed paths much throughout fight week now that they’re fighting this Saturday at UFC 302. The UFC, trying to avoid any incidents, assigned special security for both fighters and made sure their schedules didn’t cross paths.

The first time Perez and Edwards got up close since their heated brawl at the UFC PI was during Friday’s faceoffs at the UFC 302 ceremonial weigh-ins. And as expected, the tension was high.

In a sport where may of the feuds are often fabricated for promotion and sales, Perez and Edwards put meaning behind the UFC’s “as real as it gets” motto. No matter what happens Saturday, both Perez and Edwards have assured that their beef won’t be squashed.

“No, she’s a criminal,” Perez said when asked if things could be settled after UFC 302.

“On my end, it’s also the same,” Edwards said. “I don’t plan on touching or even looking at her after the fight. The only contact we’re going to have is the strikes she’s going to take during the fight.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 302.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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