Leon Edwards says don't be surprised when he submits Gunnar Nelson at UFC London

LONDON – Striker vs. grappler affair in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 5 event? Not the way Leon Edwards sees it against Gunnar Nelson.

“I’m looking forward to going out there and proving to the world how good I am,” Edwards told MMA Junkie. “What if I subbed him out? That would be so good to go out there and choke him out. I’m looking forward to it and proving to the world. I feel good. I feel prepared and ready to take him out.”

Edwards (16-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) and Nelson (17-3-1 MMA, 8-3 UFC) meet in the co-feature of Saturday’s card from The O2 in London. The entire event streams live on ESPN+.

Edwards carries an impressive six-fight winning streak into the matchup but is currently only an honorable mention in the last USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA welterweight rankings. While he believes he deserves a little more respect for his streak, he also thinks he understands why he doesn’t get quite the shine he’d like.

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“I think it’s more about, like now, you can win 20 fights if you want in the UFC, back-to-back – if you don’t talk (expletive) on social media or talk (expletive) on the camera, you won’t get the love from the fans or from the company,” Edwards said. “So I feel winning isn’t enough no more. You have to be able to go out there and talk (expletive), basically.”

That said, Edwards said he’d rather stay true to himself rather than adopt a role in hopes of furthering his current standing.

“I’ll just keep doing my thing and keep chipping away, and I’ll get to where I want to get to,” Edwards said.

The next step in that direction comes in the form of Nelson, a gifted Icelandic grappler who is capable of performing in big moments. And while Edwards will likely enjoy an advantage on the feet, he believes it’s important not to put all his stock in one facet of the game.

It’s a lesson he said he learned in his most recent defeat – a 2015 decision to now-champ Kamaru Usman – when he prepared in the U.S. at the behest of others in order to tighten up his wrestling.

“I listened back then, and I went to AKA, and I went into the fight with a defensive mind state, so I went in there thinking, ‘Don’t let him take me down,'” Edwards said. “But now, I’ll go in there free state and just free flowing. I’m so good on the ground, it’s unbelievable. In the gym, I feel I’ve improved so much more on my ground than my striking, so I’m just going out there free flow, enjoy it. If he takes me down, I’ll get back up to my feet. I take him down.

“It’s an MMA fight at the end of the day. I’m not one-dimensional. I’ve improve leaps and bounds since my last loss, and I’m looking forward to Saturday night.”

Seven straight wins would be tough to contest, and Edwards would likely be due a big fight. In a perfect world, he’d like to see the winner of Saturday’s main event between Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal sometime in the summer – and then maybe even an opportunity to revisit the Usman contest later in the year.

“I think after beating Gunnar Nelson, I deserve the winner of the main event,” Edwards said. “I don’t understand why they’re bringing Ben (Askren) over to talk (expletive) and to try and slide him in there, you know what I mean?

“I think that’s my next step: June, July, get the winner in a main event, then beating them and getting a rematch with Usman. That’s my perfect plan for this year.”

First things first, though. Nelson will prove a formidable challenge, but one for which Edwards says he’s ready and aiming to finish, whether through submission or not.

“I’ll be prepared for a three-round war, but I feel I need to go out there and finish him to get to where I want to get to,” Edwards said. “I don’t feel a decision over Gunnar Nelson will propel me to where I want to get in the division. I’m prepared for a war, but I want a finish.”

To hear more from Edwards, check out the video above.

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 5, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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