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Despite delay, Edmen Shahbazyan still wants to be youngest champion in UFC history

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Edmen Shahbazyan will have to wait a little longer to fight, but that doesn’t change his aspirations of making history.

Shahbazyan’s fight with Derek Brunson was slated for the UFC on ESPN+ 30 card in Portland, Ore., on April 11, but was one of three cards the UFC postponed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The pair originally was set to square off at UFC 248, but a minor injury suffered by Brunson pushed the fight back a month. Now Shahbazyan finds himself having to wait yet again.

The clock is ticking for the undefeated 22-year-old Shahbazyan (11-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), who has goals of breaking Jon Jones’ record to become the youngest champion in UFC history.

Jones became light heavyweight champ at 23 years, 8 months, a record that may be a little harder for Shahbazyan to break after his fight with Brunson was postponed indefinitely.

But if he keeps putting on showings like his recent first-round knockout over Brad Tavares at UFC 244, the record still could be attainable.

“It puts a little bit of time back on that,” Shahbazyan told MMA Junkie. “We have until next July to accomplish that goal, because 23 years and 8 months – and I’ll be 23 in November, and we have another eight months on top of that. But everything happens for a reason, so we’ll see what happens. But I’m hoping to fight soon when this whole thing is over with.”

Had Shahbazyan competed at UFC 248 and got his desired result, he would have been well on the way to his goal. In fact, Shahbazyan revealed the intention was to remain on the March 7 card, but things didn’t work out.

“They offered another person and we said yeah to him, but I guess the other guy didn’t accept because it was too short of a notice,” Shahbazyan said. “And then they rescheduled it to the Portland date and we agreed on that, too, and then this whole corona(virus) thing happened.”

Shahbazyan appears to be on a similar path to UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya with the opponents he’s drawing, something he’s taken notice of.

He said he’s happy with the matchmaking and his career trajectory.

“I think we’re progressing the right way and we’re taking the right approach as to who we’re fighting and when we’re fighting them,” Shahbazyan said. “I don’t want to rush anything, but I do want to set some high goals. I have set some high goals and I do want to accomplish them, but, no rush – (we’re) taking our time and we’re going to climb our way to the top.

“I think a win over (Brunson) definitely puts me in a position, maybe like close to top five. I think it’ll bump me up a couple of spots, so close to top five it’ll put me. But yeah, in my eyes, I’m No. 1 – so that’s how I’m looking at it.”

Brunson has faced a who’s-who in the division, but has fallen short in some big fights, often paying for his aggressive style. However, in his last two outings, Brunson has displayed a more composed and tamed version of himself, which resulted in back-to-back wins over Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch.

But whether Brunson decides to come out strong or more reserved, that won’t change what Shahbazyan, who’s finished his last three opponents in the first round, sets out to do.

“It doesn’t change my approach, but definitely I’m prepared for both styles,” Shahbazyan said. “Whether he’s going to come with his blitzing style or his more passive and defensive style, I’m ready for both. We’ve been preparing for both.”

With all the pressure that comes with being undefeated, chasing records, and representing Glendale Fighting Club, gym of UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, “The Golden Boy” continues to blossom.

“It’s cool definitely having all the support and the fans and stuff being involved and saying this, and saying that,” Shahbazyan said. “I love that pressure. Whenever there’s a lot of pressure, I love it and I feel I thrive under pressure, so all that is good and it just makes me more hungry and motivated to keep my record, keep my ranking and keep building up and getting better, and going to the higher rankings, to the top five, and hopefully to the title soon. So yeah, it’s motivating.”

Gallery

Edmen Shahbazyan def. Brad Tavares at UFC 244: Best photos

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