New UFC champion Leon Edwards received a hero’s welcome on his return to Birmingham on Wednesday.
Edwards, 31, upset Kamaru Usman with a last-minute knockout to become just the second UFC champion from the UK.
The Jamaica-born fighter was given a raucous reception at the airport and then, with his mother, visited an epic mural created in his honour.
“My mum was there, all my friends and family. It was amazing,” Edwards told BBC Sport about coming home.
Edwards could fight next on home soil, with the UFC open to staging his first title defence in the UK.
With his belt over his shoulder, ‘Rocky’ landed in the UK from Utah in the USA to chants of “champ, champ” and took pictures with fans and family at the airport.
Edwards’ emotional call to his mother after his win over Usman went viral over the weekend and the Briton posed with her in front of a huge mural in Erdington, where he grew up.
“I don’t know what is it. Every time we speak, tears come,” Edwards said of the reunion. “To make your mum proud as a man is one of your main goals in life. She is super proud of me.
“She’s happy that I’ve gone out and achieved my dreams.
“She first got me involved in mixed martial arts at the age of 17. She’s seen me work, the dedication I’ve put into it. She’s super proud of me.”
There were plenty of fans to welcome Edwards home, with some blue flares set off.
“I went by the mural on the way back from the airport. Literally about a hundred people there wanting to take pictures, all surprised to see me. It’s amazing,” he said.
“I said before I won the belt I want to do it from the UK – to spur on other athletes and other gyms and other people to believe in your country, believe in your team.
“You can actually achieve it from living here, working hard and being dedicated. I went out there and did that. I’m hoping it’s the start of a new wave of champions coming through.”
Edwards is the second Briton to win a UFC title after Michael Bisping and could follow the legend’s lead again if he defends his title in the UK.
Bisping beat Dan Henderson in an overnight event in Manchester in 2016 and this week UFC president Dana White confirmed it was looking at venues for Edwards.
“We would hold it prime time in the UK. We’re looking at every option out there right now. We’re looking at all the venues in England. Not just London, we’re looking at every venue in England. We’re looking at everything,” he said.
“We put a fight night on at the O2 [Arena] and it sells out in minutes. Imagine what we can do with this thing. It’s going be massive over there.”