UFC officially launches mentorship scheme with Legacy Youth Zones to combat UK knife crime with Till, Edwards & Manuwa

THE Ultimate Fighting Championship has sounded the opening bell in their battle against the knife and gang crime epidemic in the United Kingdom with the help of Brits Darren Till and Leon Edwards.

Mixed martial arts’ premier promotion announced a partnership with Legacy Youth Zone and the Onside Network last May, revealing plans to set up mentorship programs for kids and teenagers.

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Darren Till, Leon Edwards and Jimi Manuwa approached the UFC about setting up a scheme to help combat knife crime in the UK in 2020Credit: GETTY
And the promotion's partnership with Legacy Youth Zones & OnSide is now in full flow

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And the promotion’s partnership with Legacy Youth Zones & OnSide is now in full flowCredit: OnSide

The initiative will provide mentorship for 12 to 16-year-olds who are currently on probation for knife-related crimes in addition to those who have been convicted of gang and drug-related offenses.

The UFC became involved in the project following Till, Edwards and former light-heavyweight Jimi Manuwa’s calls to help those at risk of perpetrating knife crime following a swathe of stabbings in their respective home towns.

The trio will lead ‘a martial arts-focused mentoring program as part of the after-school health and wellness curriculum at three OnSide Youth Zones’ up and down the country.

Welterweight contender Edwards – who is based at the Wolverhampton youth zone – said of the promotion’s involvement: “As soon as I mentioned it to the UFC they were fully involved and wanted to put money in it straight away.

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“I’m very happy to finally come and see the kids work after Covid. Without youth clubs, that’s why there’s a spike in crime as kids have nothing to but hang out on the streets with their friends.”

Edwards is all too aware of the devastating and heartbreaking effects of knife crime having ‘lost many friends’ to the nationwide epidemic.

And having turned his own life around with mixed martial arts, the Brummie is keen to show youngsters that they can channel their energy into something positive and not become immersed in gang culture.

Speaking at OnSide’s facility in Croydon on Thursday, Rocky admitted: “For kids, you’re like a blueprint to show you can achieve stuff.

“It’s easy to go the hood and be like, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that, look at this’ but you can’t resonate with that person.

“So for someone like me that I’ve been there and lived it, I can be the blueprint.”

South London police officer PC Dean Littlewood is optimistic about the positive effect the scheme will have.

He said: “I’m a big fan of MMA and because I followed [Jimi] on social media, it was a bit of a lightbulb moment in my head.

“I thought that we could use both of our profiles as police and athletes to bring something together, with the branding of an international powerhouse like the UFC it’s great.

“It’s just about giving these kids something to focus on that pent-up aggression or frustration they may have whilst having positive role models around them.

“We want to use this program to target those people in our community who are at risk of certain crime types and vulnerabilities.”

OnSide chief executive Kathryn Morely said: “Giving young people positive opportunities to have fun, get fit, and connect with their peers will be even more important as we emerge from the pandemic.

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“This partnership is a great opportunity to introduce young people across the network to an incredibly popular sport, and we are delighted to be working with UFC to launch this mentoring program and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on young people across the OnSide network of Youth Zones.”

To learn more about the UFC’s involvement with Legacy Youth Zones, visit UFCONSIDEYOUTHMENTORING.

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