Edmen Shahbazyan knew his back was against the wall when he walked to the Octagon at UFC 282. Mired in a three-fight losing streak, the 25-year-old once touted as a surefire title contender was just hoping to get his hand raised for the first time in three years.
Fighting the hyper-aggressive Dalcha Lungiambula, Shahbazyan appeared to fight with great composure before getting the TKO finish near the end of the second round. Along with earning his first finish after the first round, Shahbazyan was just glad to have that chapter of his career behind him.
“Whenever I go into the fight, I try to go in with a clear mind,” Shahbazyan told UFC.com. “I know I was coming off the losses, but when I stepped in there, I went in with a clear mind and got the job done.”
Although he’s not a man of many words, Shahbazyan is a man of many smiles, and he can’t help but flashing that grin when he thinks back to the person he was when he had last tasted victory.
Top Finishes: Edmen Shahbazyan
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Top Finishes: Edmen Shahbazyan
Back then, he was the hottest prospect in the promotion and had just beat the brakes off Brad Tavares. This time, he had seen the ups and downs of the fight game and felt better off for it.
“I've matured as a fighter and improved in a lot of my areas of my fight game, that's for sure,” he said. “In 2019, I was 21, so now I'm 25 and am a lot better.”
Shahbazyan made a big change prior to his bout with Lungiambula. After spending his whole MMA journey at Glendale Fight Club outside of Los Angeles, “The Golden Boy” left for Las Vegas to start anew.
Working with Dewey Cooper and Jason Manly, combined with the myriad bodies available at Xtreme Couture, Shahbazyan waded through the unknown of living outside his hometown for the first time.
Not that he needed it, but the victory also provided validation. The move worked, and he is loving life as “Vegas Edmen” — at least for now. He has yet to experience a full summer in the desert, but weather aside, Shahbazyan believes in everything he has done that led him to where he is now.
“It's been great, “It was getting cold at first, and now it's getting hot, so we'll see (laughs). It's still bearable, but let's see when it's unbearable. I think I have a great coaching staff that are all positive and good. Good vibes always. The training partners I have are high-level guys working with me every day and pushing me to my limits.”
Granted, one win doesn’t mean everything is solved. Where Shahbazyan struggled during his losing streak was in the grappling department. Lungiambula tested that to a degree, but his opponent this weekend, Anthony Hernandez, is a whole different beast. “Fluffy” isn’t necessarily an overpowering wrestler, but he is as slick as they get when it comes to finding a submission, as his seven wins via tap out show.
All that said, Shahbazyan is eager to show improvements on that side of his game. He believes in himself and his skills, and he expects to succeed in thwarting Hernandez’s pressure while choosing his shots on the outside.
“I feel like I can implement my game really well against him,” he said. “(I’ll) pick him apart for sure. Bring it on. I'm ready.”
As you could imagine, that last sentence was said with a beaming smile, but that’s what you get with Shahbazyan. He believes the bumps in the road are behind him, and he’s better than he ever was back when he was an unvarnished golden child in this game.
Sure, he picked up a few scratches, but that shine hasn’t dimmed one bit in his mind.
“It's gonna be a fun one because (Hernandez) comes to fight,” Shahbazyan said. “Definitely tune in Saturday, for sure, because I come to fight, he comes to fight, and we come to finish.”