Edmen Shahbazyan made his UFC debut a little over three years ago, a memory that seems like yesterday for Shahbazyan.
The 23-year-old has climbed his way up the middleweight rankings, where he currently sits ranked at No. 11. Even though he has faced back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, Shahbazyan has been working hard to get back in the win column this weekend at UFC 268.
“Whatever bad positions I was in, I put myself in those positions while I’m in training and I grind it out and push myself out of those positions,” he said. “And I did that. I’ve been improving and getting better. I’m still 23 years old, so I have a lot to show, a lot to improve and I’m happy to do it on the biggest stage.
“I’m young and improving and any loss that I have, and any win too, I use it as a learning lesson still and it’s going to be that way for a long time.”
The last time “The Golden Boy” came out victorious was in the same arena that he’ll be competing in this weekend — Madison Square Garden. His last two fights have taken place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas with no crowd, so Shahbazyan is eager to get back in the Octagon and fight in front in fans. He enjoys entertaining them, but he also feels that he performs better in those situations.
“New York City it’s always different,” Shahbazyan said. “It hits different, so Saturday night it’s going to be fun and I’m excited for it. It’s good to be back. I’m back to fighting with the crowd. My last two fights there was no crowd, now we’re going to have a crowd so I’m excited for that. The energy is different there. It feels better for me.”
And while some may feel pressure after two dropping straight, Shahbazyan doesn’t. He embraces the pressure and knows what he is capable of, which is how he got to the place he is at today.
Being able to train at American Kickboxing Academy for two months during this camp has built up his confidence even more.
“It is just about knowing that I’m in it to hang with the best, and I could hang with the best,” Shahbazyan said. “My last two fights, it’s not like I went in there and got completely dominated; I was winning, for the most part, and then things just turned around a little bit. I’m working on those mistakes; I’ve been working on it and it’s just about improvements and getting better.”
When he looks at his matchup against Nassourdine Imavov on Saturday, Shahbazyan believes that he is better in every area when it comes to mixed martial arts. Imavov is two years older than Shahbazyan and is coming off an impressive TKO victory against Ian Heinisch in July. The Russian-born fighter made his UFC debut last October and his win in July pushed him to a 10-3 record, as he showed that he could be a dangerous competitor in the middleweight division.
“I think that he is also a young and hungry fighter, so that’s always a dangerous fighter, so I’m aware of that,” Shahbazyan said. “I know his skill sets, I’ve been watching tape on him, so I’ve studied him and I’m ready for his style. I think it matches up very well with mine and I’m willing to go in there and do whatever it takes to get the win and have an impressive performance.”
To get the win on Saturday, Shahbazyan said he just must go in there and be himself. He has been putting in the work, fixing his mistakes and making improvements, and now it’s time to show it.
Since joining the UFC, Shahbazyan’s main lesson has been to take it one fight at a time and not rush things. Eventually he will get where he wants to be.
When he makes his walk to the Octagon on Saturday, one thing will be going through his mind.
Don't miss a single strike of UFC 268: Usman vs Covington 2, live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on ESPN+ on November 6, 2021. Prelims begin at 6pm ET/3pm PT, main card starts at 10pm ET/7pm PT.