With eight wins in a row, the No. 3 ranked welterweight in the UFC should already be knocking on the door of title contention. But the coronavirus pandemic has largely wrecked his plans for 2020. Because options were limited, Edwards ultimately took the fight against Chimaev, who is currently 3-0 in the UFC with three impressive finished across two different weight classes.
While Chimaev may not have a number next to his name, Edwards understands the kind of hype that’s surrounded him since first arriving in the UFC, which is what made the fight so appealing to him.
“Outside a title shot, I believe he’s the biggest fight,” Edwards told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “Obviously, [Jorge] Masvidal would have been good as well, but he turned the fight down. This is the biggest fight to guarantee me what’s next.
“That was my thinking going into this. The UFC loves him. Dana [White] loves him. They all think he can’t be beat. When I go out there and take him out, I can’t see what they can say next to give me my title shot. I’d be on a nine-fight win streak. I believe this was the fight to make and now here we are.”
UFC President Dana White has definitely heaped a ton of praise on Chimaev, predicting the Russian-born fighter will eventually become a huge star for the promotion.
“The guy is special,” White said about Chimaev in September. “I’ve been in this game my whole life, I’ve never seen anything like him. I’m telling you the guy is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Never seen anything like this in my life. Special.”
Considering the way White has talked about Chimaev lately, it would certainly appear the UFC is putting him on the fast track to superstardom. A win over a top-three ranked welterweight in only his fourth fight in the promotion would undoubtedly prove all the hype surrounding the 26-year-old prospect is justified.
In fact, Edwards absolutely believes the UFC wants Chimaev to win so they can continue promoting him as the sport’s next big thing.
“I know the UFC’s probably banking, Dana anyway, I know he’s praying that this kid wins, but I’ll be way too much for him in there, I’m telling you,” Edwards said.
“They’ve done this before with other fighters. They’d get one, two good wins in their career and the UFC kind of pushed them straight to the top, and then they get beat. Like in boxing, if you’re a good prospect, they kind of build you slowly, make you learn the tricks of the trade and go through adversity. They’ve done it to many other fighters you can name. It’s not worked out.”
If he was going to compare this situation to another in the UFC, Edwards points to a famous moment where Khabib Nurmagomedov was in the middle of a fight against Michael Johnson, but he was taking time to talk to White. Between rounds, Nurmagomedov turned to White and said “I’m going to smash your boy” in reference to Conor McGregor.
Nurmagomedov promised he was coming for McGregor’s head, and no amount of marketing or pay-per-view sales were going to save him. Edwards hopes to deliver the same in his fight with Chimaev.
“That’s exactly how I feel, right,” Edwards said. “Dana, I’m going to smash your boy. I cannot wait. It’s going to be a very good night come December.”
While the UFC president has publicly denied ever rooting for one fighter over another, it’s impossible to ignore the kind of attention being paid to Chimaev so early in his career.
None of that seems to bother Edwards, who’s been overlooked or underrated in the past, and he expects a win over Chimaev to taste that much sweeter given the circumstances surrounding this fight.
“This is more motivation for me,” Edwards explained. “I understand it’s a business. I understand that they’re trying to invest in this kid. I use this as motivation to show them once again why I’m on an eight fight win streak and why I believe I am the best in the world. I don’t really look into it too much.
“I just use it as motivation. Put it on my back and keep working. Keep grinding forward with what I want to achieve and that’s being a world champion.”