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Leon Edwards: Rafael dos Anjos was ‘forced’ into this fight ‘and now he’ll pay’

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UFC on FOX 17 Weigh-ins Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Not long before his main event against Rafael dos Anjos was announced, Leon Edwards was quite vocal on social media calling out the former UFC champion for turning down a fight against him.

Edwards ripped dos Anjos for not agreeing to face him but then within a matter of days the veteran Brazilian was announced as his opponent for the upcoming UFC Fight Night card in San Antonio.

According to Edwards, he was initially offered the fight on a later date but he claims dos Anjos declined to face him. When the UFC came calling again for the same fight even earlier, Edwards was still more than happy to accept but he was surprised to hear dos Anjos had also accepted.

“The UFC came to me and offered the fight for August 3 I think, I can’t remember what card, but they offered me the main event and I said yes,” Edwards explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “They offered him the fight and he said no, he needs more time. He turned it down first and then they came back to me a couple of weeks later and said what do you think about doing the main event in San Antonio, Tex. and I said yes again. I don’t know how but somehow he accepted the fight so here we are.

“I think they forced him into it and now he’ll pay. Now we’ll see who’s one of the best fighters in the world. This wasn’t his first option. Now he faces a young, hungry up and coming killer.”

While dos Anjos has some impressive wins at welterweight, Edwards doesn’t see him as a huge threat considering the struggles he’s faced against some of the bigger, more physically imposing fighters in the division.

“He’s done OK. Coming up and being the smaller man, he’s been OK,” Edwards said about dos Anjos. “Once we get to the younger, hungrier guys, he always struggles. He struggles against bigger guys, against southpaws, that’s what I am.

“I feel like he’ll struggle against me again.”

As much as Edwards has been calling for a fight against a top five ranked opponent just like this one, his ultimate goal has always remained the same.

He wants to fight for the UFC welterweight title and he sees dos Anjos as the best path to get there.

Considering the last two people to defeat him — Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington — either earned a title shot or left the fight wearing an interim championship, Edwards likes his chances to get the same with a dominant showcase against dos Anjos.

“I think is one of the fights that will prove my case. I feel I need to go out there and stop him to prove my case that I am one of the best in the world. That’s my aim — go out there and stop him and move on to a title shot,” Edwards said.

“The division is wide open for a world title shot. I think whoever performs best will get the next title shot. I feel like [finishing him] will prove my case for the world title shot. If I go out there and put away the former lightweight world champion and a top three welterweight, that will prove my case to get the rematch with Kamaru Usman.”

Edwards sees his main competition as Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington, who are both looking for that same title shot as him.

Masvidal already made his case after starching Ben Askren in just five seconds for the fastest knockout in UFC history. Meanwhile, Covington has his own test coming up on Aug. 3 when he faces former champion Robbie Lawler in New Jersey.

“This is like a little mini-tournament,” Edwards said. “Whoever performs the best out of all three fights will get the title shot and then whoever else won will fight for the No. 1 contender’s spot.

“That’s my aim to go out there and put on a show. I think my record speaks for itself, who I’m fighting and who I’m beating. If I’m able to go out there and finish the former world champion, I think that will prove my case. I think I deserve a title shot after this.”