- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
When Edmen Shahbazyan signed with the UFC in 2018, he made clear that his primary goal was to become the youngest champion in promotion history. Three years later, that’s no longer attainable, and so his mindset has shifted.
“I didn’t reach that goal, but I have other goals now,” Shahbazyan, who turns 24 later this month, said Wednesday at UFC 268 media day in New York. “I’m just gonna take it fight by fight, improve, get better, and I’ll get there eventually.”
If by “get there eventually” he means winning a UFC title, Shahbazyan would like for the first step to come Saturday at Madison Square Garden where he faces fellow prospect Nassourdine Imavov. The matchup is a big step down in competition following back-to-back losses – including his first UFC headliner – against middleweight contenders Derek Brunson last year and Jack Hermansson this past May.
Had Shahbazyan, a former Ronda Rousey training partner, won those fights after winning his first four in the UFC, he might’ve been in line for a title shot sooner than now and gotten his chance to break Jon Jones’ record for youngest UFC champ.
Al Iaquinta: Six years in the making, Bobby Green fight at UFC 268 finally happening at 'right time'
Frankie Edgar before UFC 268: 'I just want to get back to the winning ways'
Why Zhang Weili views Rose Namajunas loss as a 'treasure' and what changed for UFC 268 rematch
Since things didn’t work out as planned, Shahbazyan has heard from critics putting him down for having such a lofty goal. None of that bothers him, though.
“It is what it is,” Shahbazyan said. “My last two fights, I fought two top guys. And it’s not like I went in there from the beginning and got dominated. I was doing well until the mid-rounds. I don’t really care what people criticize me for. It is what it is. … I’m still young. I’m still 23. I’m getting better.”
He added, “Mentally I’m in a great place. The last two fights, of course, didn’t go my way. I fought top dogs my last two fights, and I use it all as a learning experience. … I’ve worked harder from it, and I’m coming back now.”
All Shahbazyan (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) cares about heading into UFC 268 is turning things around, and he believes Imavov (10-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is the right opponent for that.
“Definitely it’s a fight I can look great in,” Shahbazyan said. “Stylistically, if you look at it, he’s pretty much a standup fighter, too. It mixes in well with me. I think it matches up very well for me.”
Watch the full media day interview with Shahbazyan in the video above.