Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey praised middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan, calling him a “special” young talent.
Rousey, the UFC Hall of Famer, is the manager for Shahbazyan, who also trains at Rousey’s old stomping grounds at Glendale Fighting Club. The young middleweight headlines his first UFC event this weekend when he takes Derek Brunson at UFC on ESPN+ 31. It’s a massive fight for the 22-year-old Shahbazyan, who is a perfect 11-0 in his MMA career thus far. In the biggest fight of his young career to date, Shahbazyan will be looking to jump into title contention at 185lbs with a win over the perennial contender Brunson this Saturday night.
Speaking with UFC president Dana White before the event, Rousey shed some light on her star pupil, saying that she and the whole team knew he was a special talent years ago.
"We used to call him Neo; he is the one."
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 29, 2020
“Little Eddie, he’s always been special. He’s always been called Neo (from ‘The Matrix’). He’s the one. He’s one of the first generation of kids who only did MMA. He was obsessed with MMA when I was training with the gym. He was actually like my throw-in dummy for my open workout (before the Liz Carmouche fight at UFC 157. He was 15 years old, he was like still like bigger than me. But like he was one of my training partners. He learned armbars by me. He got beat up by me,” Rousey said.
“He was in the gym at a very pivotal time and he and his brother (Leon Shahbazyan) would just like show up with 10th Planet (Jiu-Jitsu) books and they were completely obsessed. I’ve never seen kids more obsessed with MMA and that was like the first generation of that. I came up in like judo and other things and MMA became a thing that everyone else had to adjust to when they were aways experts in something else.”
With Rousey managing his career, Shahbazyan is in good hands. The UFC is clearly very high on the 22-year-old phenom and the promotion granting him his first UFC main event already speaks to how much the matchmakers believe in his talent. A win over Brunson and Shahbazyan will be pushing title contention at a record young age, with the chance of him breaking Jon Jones’ record for the youngest champion in UFC history being very real.
Do you agree with Ronda Rousey that Edmen Shahbazyan is a special fighter?