Leon Edwards is hopeful that victory over Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday will earn him an overdue shot at the UFC welterweight title – having also vowed to settle his feud with Jorge Masvidal “inside the cage or outside of it".
Edwards scored a hugely impressive victory over Gunnar Nelson at UFC London in March, with Masvidal stealing the limelight that night with a devastating KO victory over Darren Till at the O2 Arena.
Masvidal and Edwards were involved in a wild brawl backstage after the show, with security forced to pull the two apart after the former launched a flurry of punches at the Birmingham fighter.
Animosity has brewed between the pair ever since. While Masvidal went on to follow up his KO of Till with an even more impressive knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 in July, Edwards has not forgotten what happened that night in the capital.
“I pushed for the Masvidal fight straight away,” Edwards told Standard Sport. “He turned the fight down, he said he didn’t want to fight me.
"His day will come. We will settle our differences, it will be inside the cage or outside the cage, 100 percent.
“I didn’t see it coming [the Askren KO]. That was that one in a million shot, you fight 10 times that will never happen again. It’s one of those things. He went out there running and Ben f****** dipped his head into his knee. It was crazy.”
Edwards went on to dismiss Askren as a potential world title challenger, insisting the former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion doesn’t have the tools to rule in the UFC.
“Ben was never one of the best fighters in the division. His mouth got him to where he was, he was never that great.
"He did what he needed to do and got to where he got to. But to be at this level, you need more than just a slow wrestling game. You need to be able to do everything.”
Edwards’ win over Nelson in March extended his winning streak in UFC to seven with a performance he hoped would secure him a meeting with one of the division’s top-three fighters.
In former lightweight champion Dos Anjos, he gets the man ranked No4 at 155lbs. It’s the showcase fight 27-year-old Edwards has been waiting for, and he firmly believes it presents him with the chance to make up for lost time and haul himself into the title picture.
“I feel this has played out as it was meant to be play out,” Edwards continued. “I’m on a seven-fight winning streak and I want to fight the number one.
"For now, I’ve got the third-ranked guy in the world and I’m feeling good going into the fight. I feel the journey is just how it should have been and I’m ready to roll.”
Kamaru Usman rules the welterweight division, having taken the belt from Tyron Woodley in February to become Africa’s first UFC champion.
Edwards and Usman have their own intriguing history, with the Nigerian inflicting Edwards’ only defeat in four years back in 2015.
Avenging that defeat and taking the world title in the same stroke against Usman would be ‘the icing on the cake’ for Edwards.
“I feel if I beat Rafael on Saturday, that should put me in contention for that world title shot. I’ll be on an eight-fight winning streak in one of the hardest divisions in the sport, and honestly that should put me in contention.
“To beat Usman, the man to last beat me four years ago, in my title shot, that’s the dream scenario. But I am fully focused on Dos Anjos.
"I understand he is a former world champion, I understand just how good he is. So my focus for now is purely on going out there and getting that win.”
Edwards continued: “I feel I can better Rafael wherever it goes. I only wrestled with Gunnar Nelson to prove to the world that I am more than just a striker. I’ll be able to beat him wherever the fight goes.”
While Edwards is looking to extend his winning streak in San Antonio this weekend, his younger brother Fabian is putting together his own equally impressive charge fighting for rival promotion Bellator.
The 26-year-old middleweight is undefeated as a professional inside the cage and his brother believes he is destined for world title gold, hoping the two Brummie boys can rule their respective divisions side-by-side.
“To have done so much in such a short period of time, it is amazing,” Leon said of Fabian.
“I can definitely see a world title in his future, either in the UFC or in Bellator. Either way, he’ll do great. I’d love for him to come over to UFC and for me and him to reign together, but he’s following his own path and doing his own thing so it’s all good.”