For UFC Veteran Yves Edwards, Toughest Battle Is Within His Own Mind

Yves EdwardsThe week of a fight, the last place UFC lightweight Yves Edwards wants to be is in his own head. It's a scary place sometimes, and also a tough place to escape from.

"I obsess over the stupidest things you can imagine," Edwards said. "I will obsess over the color of towels in my bathroom, or what kind of soap they have [in the hotel]. I had this one soap this one time and that wasn't a great performance, so I can't use this soap again. It's stupid, and it's just a distraction."

With nearly 60 pro fights in a career that's spanned almost 14 years, at least Edwards has had plenty of practice in dealing with his own fight week neurosis. Now he knows how to manage it. For starters, he can bring his own soap. He can also rely on his friends, like Strikeforce welterweight Tyron Woodley, to keep him mentally occupied.

Otherwise, Edwards said, it can get out of hand in a hurry. For instance, say a certain friend is coming to see the fight. Then Edwards starts to think about how he's never won a fight with that guy in the audience. Maybe he's bad luck. Maybe he's cursed.

"But then, I don't want to tell my friends not to come see my fights, so I have to stay away from that stuff," said Edwards, who faces Rafaello Oliveira at UFC on Versus 6 this Saturday night.

"I can catch myself doing it a lot. Stopping it is the hard part. Common sense and rationalization -- I'm a pretty rational person when I'm not in this mode -- that kicks in a little bit and I realize that the color of my underwear has nothing to do with how hard I've prepared for this fight or how focused I am. But it's just the irrational part of my brain, that part kicks in first. I have to talk myself down from it sometimes."

At least Edwards has experience in his favor. Wednesday marks the ten-year anniversary of his UFC debut -- a losing effort against Matt Serra at UFC 33 -- and Saturday's fight comes just one day after his 35th birthday. To Edwards, doing the math on his career numbers and realizing just how long he's been at it comes as "kind of a surprise," he said.

"I still feel like I'm 26. ...The guy that was making his debut in the UFC, he didn't know half the things I know now."

But as Edwards prepares to take on Oliveira -- a Brazilian fighter who he actually trained alongside of and "traded a few secrets" with in the past -- he does so coming off a knockout loss to Sam Stout that UFC president Dana White called "one of the nastiest I've ever seen."

It might not be a must-win fight for Edwards, but 35-year-old fighters can't afford to take too many steps backwards, and he knows it.

"The thing is, nobody gets cut off a win," Edwards said. "Not unless you've done something and screwed up. That's my only concern, is going out there and winning, keeping my job, and keep moving up the ladder."

The fact that he went from a pay-per-view card at UFC 131 to the prelim portion of a UFC on Versus card doesn't worry him, he insisted, just like it doesn't matter that he knows Oliveira to be "a pretty nice guy."

"When it comes to the fight game that means absolutely nothing to me," he said. "... This fight could be behind a Wal-Mart. All I have to worry about is, that's the guy I'm fighting. That's all that matters."

That, and that he remembers not to obsess about the brand of soap in his hotel. After a week of battling himself, the fight should be a relief.

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