Leon Edwards has already got his eyes on an opponent for when he becomes UFC welterweight champion, eyeing a blockbuster grudge match.
The 30-year-old is just days away from competing in his first UFC title bout as he takes on reigning and defending champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 278.
His title fight in Salt Lake City, Utah, will be his first UFC appearance since June 2021, where he outpointed Nate Diaz.
Despite the time away from the Octagon, Edwards doesn't believe in ring rust - but admits he'd prefer to be more active having had only four fights since 2019.
"I'd prefer to be more active," he said exclusively to SPORTbible. "I don't believe in ring rust and I believe that if you do your training camp right and approach a fight right, you'll be fine.
"I've been off over a year before, came back and felt great."
Of course, Edwards has already shared the cage with Usman, with the two meeting in a non-title contest back in December 2015.
But the Birmingham-native believes this weekend's clash is a 'totally new fight' from their first showdown.
"Yeah, it's a totally new fight. I've watched the fight back before and feel both have improved in so much areas that'd be a totally different fight from what it is now.
"I will not be taking that fight into this fight - it's a brand new fight."
Usman enters his sixth UFC welterweight title defence having stopped three of his last five opponents.
'The Nigerian Nightmare' has shown a new wrinkle to his game, showing off his hands.
Though Edwards reckons Usman is in love with his hands, but is convinced he'll come out to wrestle when they meet again.
Asked if Usman has fallen in love with his hands, Edwards replied: "I believe so. You know, when you get knockouts, you do fall in love with your hands.
"I think for this fight he'll definitely come out and try to wrestle. I can't see him coming to strike.
"So, I believe he's fallen in love with his hands."
Edwards' main focus is to go out and get the win, even claiming he could catch Usman in a submission.
"I'm going out there to get the win," he continued. "Obviously, I would love to get a finish. I can see me even choking him out or TKO. But my main focus is to go out and get the victory."
Now, if Edwards does indeed dethrone Usman of the UFC welterweight title, then an immediate rematch will likely be on the cards considering the champion's dominance.
However, Edwards is looking to 'run it back' with Jorge Masvidal following their backstage run-in at UFC London in 2019.
He feels 'Gamebred' isn't deserving of a title shot, but is willing to give him a crack at UFC gold just to 'f*ck him up'.
Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards exchange words and punches backstage during the ESPN+ post-show pic.twitter.com/kYEkWxN8Io— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 16, 2019
Not to mention Khamzat Chimaev, who has been booked to fight Edwards on a couple of occasions since bursting onto the scene.
"Masvidal be good to get back in the UK and to run that one back. But he doesn't deserve a title shot. He's nowhere near a title shot, but I'll probably give it to him just to f*ck him up," he exclaimed.
On Chimaev, Edwards added: "That's definitely a fight that's going to happen down the line.
"We've been matched up two or three times. I've pulled out once, he's pulled out two times. That's a fight that's going to happen. 100 per cent."
Despite Chimaev's rapid rise to stardom, Edwards has his reservations and reckons he was exposed in his grueling victory over Gilbert Burns.
"I've proven time and time again that I'll fight anybody. Like I said, I was already ranked in the top five when I was about to fight him and he had only two fights in the UFC," he continued.
"Now people realise that he's not what he's going to be. He's a good fighter but he's not yet what he think is.
"We got to see more in the Burns fight. He's still got amateur ways, where with experience you'd probably get better. But right now, I don't think he's ready yet."
UK MMA is enjoying a golden period and Edwards is flying the flag for the UK. He has the chance to become just the second British fighter to win a UFC title.
Edward's recognises his ascent to the top having endured a humble upbringing in Jamaica before moving to the Midlands.
"It's amazing to come from a kid from Jamaica to Birmingham to now headlining on the other side of the world, representing the UK and Jamaica it's an amazing feeling," he said.
"I don't want to complicate it too much in my head. I'm just focused on the fight. I'm going into my fourth main event for the UFC. Another main event, another five-round fight. Going in there to get the victory. The belt is a bonus, getting revenge on Usman is a bonus. Apart from that, it's another main event for the UFC that I've done many times before.
"UK MMA has grown so much now. Over the last six years, MMA has grown massively in the UK and everyone's watching it now. All the kids are into it and to be the front runner, I'm proud of myself, proud of my team for what we're achieving and it'll only get better from here for the UK guys."
Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Instagram
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