British welterweight Leon Edwards will not be distracted by his favourite tag when he takes on UFC veteran Nate Diaz this weekend.
The 29-year-old will do battle with Conor McGregor’s old rival on Saturday looking to stay in the mix for a world title shot after his last bout in March was deemed a no-contest following an accidental eye poke on Belal Muhammad.
Birmingham-based Edwards had won his previous eight fights and is determined to bounce back with a bang in Arizona at UFC 263.
He said: “It doesn’t matter being the favourite. What matters to me is going out there and performing and showing the world I deserve the next world title shot.
“That is my mind frame going into this fight. I believe I am number one in the world and after going out there against a guy like Nate, it will show the world I deserve it.”
Diaz has not been in the octagon for 18 months and has only fought three times since he stunned McGregor in the first of two meetings in 2016.
Another defeat for the 36-year-old American could spell the end of his career, but his English opponent is not bothered about that talk.
Edwards said: “I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about what he will do next. I have thought about myself and what I need to do to win this fight.
“Nate is a veteran of the sport, he knows how to win as well, so I cannot take my mind off things and think I will go out there and beat him easily. If I take him lightly he can beat you, so I am focused 100 per cent on going out there and getting the job done.”
Victory for Edwards could set up a rematch with reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who beat the Briton by unanimous decision in 2015.
He believes the outcome would be different if they were to face off again later this year, adding: “Before I was a young 23-year-old, new to the UFC and learning my way. I am now a veteran, fought many styles and I feel I am a totally different person to back then.”
The coronavirus pandemic wrecked Edwards’ hopes of a world title shot in 2020 and he was dealt another blow with an unfortunate no-contest earlier this year.
Quizzed about how he remains unaffected by his uncertain future, the Jamaica-born fighter insisted: “What I have learnt to do is not connect my life to results, I connect my life to work and improve my life every day to be a world champion. That is where I put my aim into.
“If I put my aim into results it will break me because there have been so many ups and downs over the last year and a half. You have to refocus and just control what you can control. I can control going to the gym every day, improving and eventually when the fight does come I will get the result.
“I focus on the work, not the results. To be world champion is my aim and I need to improve. If I sit around and mope and feel sorry for myself the days will pass me by, so I have to keep improving and be ready.”
Last month Edwards gave himself another topic to concentrate on after he teamed up with Jimi Manuwa and Darren Till to be part of Onside’s Youth Mentoring Programme, which will focus on putting sessions on in Croydon, Wolverhampton and Wirral.
UFC have agreed a multi-year partnership with OnSide, one of the leading youth charities in the UK, to provide young people aged eight to 19 with affordable access to activities and opportunities.
The Legacy Youth Zone will launch this month, but Edwards first has the small matter of dealing with Diaz.
He added: “I might go out there and smoke him in a round or it might be a tough, hard fight for the five rounds, but I always see myself victorious.”