Edmen Shahbazyan went on quite a journey over the last three years. His last win came against Brad Tavares at UFC 244 in November 2019. The spectacular knockout brought the then-22-year-old’s record to 11-0 and added a 10th first-round finish to his ledger.
Since what seemed like his breakout performance, however, Shahbazyan is 0-3 and got stopped twice, most recently to Nassourdine Imavov at UFC 268. “The Golden Boy” – once dubbed “The Next Big Thing” – found himself in rather desperate need of a win, which he can get when he returns to the Octagon at UFC 282: Błachowicz vs Ankalaev.
When he looks back at his rough patch of form, Shahbazyan’s takeaways are rather clear.
“I don’t like how I performed and (it) should’ve gone another way,” Shahbazyan told UFC.com. “It’s life. It happens. I’m still young. I just turned 25, so it’s just improvements I’ve made, and every loss is a lesson. I’m happy to be back and get back in the win column, for sure.
“I’m capable of so much better. I believe in myself so much, so that’s why I’m dedicating myself even more to getting better."
More than a win, Shahbazyan needed a reset. Upon recommendation from his manager, Shahbazyan found it in Las Vegas. After a two-week “trial period,” Shahbazyan left his hometown of Glendale, California, as well as his longtime training home of Glendale Fight Club for the Fight Capital.
He acknowledged the somewhat claustrophobic environment he was in the last few years in Glendale. Friends, family and a strong Armenian community in the city made it difficult for Shahbazyan to do so much as pick up some coffee without getting stopped for a conversation. People were so invested in his career that Shahbazyan joked about people giving him grief any time he’d grab some food that wasn’t exactly diet-friendly.
For the first time in his life, he was on his own, and in the desert, he created a new home for himself at the UFC Performance Institute and Xtreme Couture.
“I really needed some time to zone out and focus on myself,” he said. “That’s why I made all these changes. I felt like it was much needed, and 13 months off is enough time. I worked on myself, trained hard, improved, and those losses are all learning lessons for me.”
Top Finishes: Edmen Shahbazyan
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Top Finishes: Edmen Shahbazyan
The way a formerly undefeated fighter handles their first loss is a crucial look into their psyche. Going from feeling untouchable to having that reality shattered is a hard pill to swallow. In the same way fighters handle success differently, every fighter handles adversity in their own ways, as well. Compound that struggle with three losses in a row, and you have a potentially tender situation.
Shahbazyan, however, comes off as a young man at peace with his journey. He is as quick to flash an eager grin whenever he talks about walking out at T-Mobile Arena. Given the crossroads he seems to be at in his career, it seems like a high-stress situation, but Shahbazyan feels otherwise.
“(There’s) no pressure,” he said. “I’m in a good place, mentally. I feel really, really good. I know I’m well prepared. Trained really, really hard. I’m ready to put on a performance.”
He’ll have an explosive test in front of him in the form of Dalcha Lungiambula, who boasts five knockout wins out of 11 professional victories. Lungiambula himself is coming off a trio of losses, but Shahbazyan respects the power and durability of his opponent. That said, he believes he has the skillset to “pick him apart” and control the pace of the fight.
Ultimately, Shahbazyan hopes for a “dominant” performance. With all the changes he made in his life and career, he’d be well within his right to have some questions swirling around his head as he walks to the Octagon. Not for “The Golden Boy.” He’s just ready to get back in front of the brightest lights and get the sweet taste of victory once again.
“No big questions, just me being me,” he said. “I just have to stay focused and stick to my game plan. That’s pretty much it. Every fighter has their unique techniques and their fighting styles, but when you watch footage and study them a little bit, you’re going to train for that type of opponent. I’m trained for him, and I’m ready to go.”
UFC 282: Błachowicz vs Ankalaev took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 10, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!