Edmen Shahbazyan says “it’s kill or be killed” when he faces Derek Brunson at UFC 248 on March 7. The 22-year-old middleweight is one of the most talented young fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA).

He has been perfect throughout his first 11 fights. Under the guidance of Edmen Taverdyan, he has scored finishes in all but one of his bouts. Since joining the UFC in late 2018 he has picked up four victories. Despite facing rising competition, he managed three successive first-round knockouts in 2019. He’ll now face a significant step up against perennial contender Brunson.

Ahead of the middleweight crunch clash, “The Golden Boy” Shahbazyan took time out to talk exclusively to LowKickMMA about UFC 248, his camp, his coach, Ronda Rousey, title shots, and making history.

Derek Brunson

In order to take another step towards title contention, Shahbazyan must get by the always dangerous Derek Brunson. When asked about his UFC 248 opponent the rising star was full of praise for the 36-year-old middleweight.

I think he is a good opponent, a good next step fight for me. He has been in the sport for a long time and he’s been in the top 10 for a while. It’s definitely a good matchup – he’s fought many of the good names in the division. But that doesn’t matter, I’m coming in to do my job, get the win and keep climbing the rankings.”

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Despite picking up three consecutive first-round finishes the middleweight prospect isn’t really bothered about how he gets the win against Brunson.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter for me. I’m just going to go in there and do my thing. If it’s a first-round finish, second, third it doesn’t matter to me. I’m coming in to do my job and that’s to be the better fighter that night. It’s going to come out with me winning for sure. I’m going to put it all on the line. It’s kill or be killed for me.”

“I would like to showcase my skill a little more, but first round finishes are always amazing. At least it leaves some fighters thinking what’s he going to do next. I have a lot of tools that I haven’t showcased yet. Each fight I showcase something different. I’m going to keep improving and showing something new.”

Glendale Fighting Club, Edmen Tarverdyan & Ronda Rousey

The American of Armenian descent first walked into the Glendale Fighting Club aged 10. Alongside his brother, he began his journey into the talented fighter we see today. Shahbazyan credits his coach, Edmen Tarverdyan, with helping his evolution from novice to contender.

“We are always evolving here and learning something new. Of course, coach Edmen (Tarverdyan) brings in, multiple coaches for different areas of the game and that’s how we evolve.”

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Over the years the Glendale Fighting Club head coach has come under consistent criticism. Shahbazyan believes it has been unjust and insists they’ll rise to the top of the sport together.

“He’s a great coach you know. I’ve been with him since I was 10 years old, he’s like an older brother to me and I respect him a lot. We are building up together to go to the top.

“I just know whatever they are saying is not true. I’ve been through it all. I’ve been through the behind the scenes and seen it all. I disagree with what people say about that. They have their opinions but based on what I’ve seen and know, everything is really great. Edmen is a really great coach, great person and a great mentor.”

Since his early teenage years, Shahbazyan has been on the fringes of MMA greatness. During the rise and reign of Ronda Rousey, the youngster was right by her side. Shahbazyan has taken massive inspiration from the now-retired MMA great. Speaking about his former teammate and mentor, he said the following.

“It was definitely motivating to watch her rise the way she did. Even being a little part of it, by helping whatever way I could have. Just seeing her grow and rise the way she did was motivating and inspiring and I was just very happy to be a part of it.”

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The undefeated UFC star believes growing up around such greatness will only help him during his rise to the top. “We basically got to see a first-hand look at what its like to be at the top and prepare ourselves to reach that kind of level.”

Title Shots & Making History

If he’s able to get by Brunson, it would certainly be the biggest win of his short career. However, Shahbazyan doubts it’ll put him in the title picture, not yet anyway. “It definitely puts me close. I don’t know if I’d get a title shot next but definitely would be closer to it.”

A title shot certainly appears to be in his future. It seems to be a matter of when he’ll be able to carve out the opportunity. Still just 22-years-old, Shahbazyan admits he has Jon Jones’ youngest champion record in his sights, although he insists, he won’t be rushed.

“It’s set a 23-years-and-8-months. So, we got time,” he said. “I’m just going to take it one fight at a time and work my way up. I’m not going to rush anything. If it falls in the right time that would be perfect, but I am definitely going towards that goal.”

Will Edmen Shahbazyan become the youngest champion in UFC history?

A lifelong fight fan from Liverpool, England who has been covering mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing for several years. Follow @JordanEllisUK on Twitter for all the latest fight news, views, interviews and live event coverage.