Britain’s Darren Till says he deserves a title shot as he prepares to face Robert Whittaker in the final event at the UFC’s Fight Island on Saturday.
The winner of the middleweight clash is expected to then fight for the title, possibly before the turn of the year.
Till, 27, believes he should face current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, who beat Whittaker in the Australian’s last bout in October.
“This fight ends with me knocking him out,” said the Liverpool fighter.
“When I see it, when I imagine it, I don’t ever see him knocking me out.
“It is important, I want the title, I want to fight Adesanya but at the moment I am putting every ounce of energy, spirit and soul into this fight. Look at my resume - of course I deserve a title shot.
“I have never campaigned for it, but I feel like the stars are aligning. Where do you want me to go? Backwards? I am looking forward. If I beat Whittaker, I don’t want to hear any other name apart from Adesanya.”
The brainchild of UFC president Dana White, Fight Island was developed in a bid to continue hosting mixed martial arts events during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100 fighters flew to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island for four events between 11 and 25 July, and they have faced strict safety protocols since arriving.
‘I made the kids peanut butter sandwiches’
It’s been over nine months since Whittaker, 29, entered the UFC octagon.
“I just spent plenty of time with my family,” he said.
“I took my kids to day care, picked them up and made them peanut butter sandwiches. I just did all the little things I couldn’t normally do.
“I think there’s a silver lining to everything and honestly I have loved the way I have prepared for this,” he added.
Other Britons on the card
Also fighting on the card in the early hours of Sunday morning is Scottish light-heavyweight Paul Craig, who will face Russia’s Gadzhimurad Antigulov.
Manchester heavyweight Tom Aspinall, a former sparring partner of boxing world champion Tyson Fury, will make his UFC debut on the preliminary card against Jake Collier, while Northern Ireland’s Rhys McKee also makes his debut against Khamzat Chimaev following a late call-up.
Mike Grundy takes on Movsar Evloev in a featherweight bout, Jai Herbert faces Francisco Trinaldo at lightweight while London bantamweight Nathaniel Wood begins the show against John Castaneda.