“I thought this was maybe a potential matchup even before we got paired together,” Shahbazyan said of the matchup with Marshman. “I know he’s a veteran — he has over 30 fights, six in the UFC — and he’s a stand-up fighter, a tough guy, but I plan on dominating every single second of this fight.
“No matter where the fight goes, I’m planning on dominating it because I’m coming in the most prepared I’ve ever been and he won’t be able to stop me.”
Some may chalk that up as fighter-speak. Others may call it overconfidence. It could just be the words of a kid who has yet to taste defeat and therefore has no reason to doubt himself or his talents.
However you choose to frame it, understand that Shahbazyan said it without a hint of hesitation or the tone of his voice changing at all.
He didn’t say it as an unsure fighter psyching himself up before his biggest fight to date or as the scripted answer you have to give when asked about how your next contest is going to play out.
He said it as an up-and-coming talent who knows the effort that he’s putting into his craft on the daily and who sees the gains he’s making in the gym session after session.
Maybe it is the naiveté of youth and never having been forced to deal with defeat and the self-doubt it can bring on, but the history of the sport is littered with young talents who believed in themselves to the fullest and went on to do great things, and Shahbazyan feels he has the potential to do the same.
He also knows that every time he steps into the Octagon, the unbeaten record and string of first-round finishes fade into the background and that he needs to be the best version of himself for as long as it takes to secure another win.
“I’m 21 years old and I’m only getting better,” said Shahbazyan. “I’m improving every single day in the gym. This is what I’ve been doing full time, so people can expect that I’m going to come into each fight different, I’m going to come in better. I’m always going to be improving, always evolving because the mindset I have in my practices and towards my career is to get better every single fight.
“Sure, I’m the 21-year-old who is 9-0 with eight knockouts, but that doesn’t matter to me,” he added. “To me, what matters is that I come out there and perform to the best of my abilities every single fight. I want to perform my best every single time and I know I’m capable of that, so I’ll showcase it every single time.”
Tune in Saturday if you’re still not sold.