Leon Edwards was never a fan of Colby Covington getting the next shot at his title, and he wants to deliver a statement at UFC 296 to put Covington’s contendership to rest once and for all.

Edwards will face Covington in the main event of UFC 296 on Saturday night as he puts his title on the line for the second time in 2023. And, while he acknowledged that victory is the overall aim, he wants to do so in decisive fashion.

“I feel like a win is a win, but I don’t think I need to but I want to knock him out,” Edwards told MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin.

“I want to put that nail in his coffin. This is his fourth title shot. This one he didn’t earn one bit. Sat out for two years, complained, moaned, blamed everybody else. It was everybody else’s fault, but not his. Me cementing that last nail in his coffin would be a joy, and I can’t wait to do it.”

Covington has not competed since a unanimous decision victory over Jorge Masvidal in March 2022. He has alternated wins and losses through his last five outings, with his two defeats coming at the hands of then-champion Kamaru Usman in title fights. The first resulted in a fifth-round TKO stoppage, while the rematch went the distance in a bout he lost via unanimous decision. When he steps into the cage to face Edwards, he’ll do so after 651 days of inactivity.

That stat is a major reason why Edwards doesn’t think Covington should be stood across the cage from him on Saturday night. He stated as much in the post-fight press conference after his second win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 in March, and he remains of the same opinion now.

“I feel like the world knows that (he doesn’t deserve the title shot),” he said.

“He got beat by Usman. He beat a guy in Masvidal that’s basically about to walk out the door, and then (he sat) out for two years and got a title shot. Turned down all the fights that were offered to him, all the callouts that called him out.”

Much of the pre-fight conversation about the matchup itself centers around Edwards’ highly-evolved all-round MMA game against Covington’s high-intensity pressure-fighting style. But, in Edwards’ eyes, there are major questions to be answered about Covington’s major weapon heading into fight night.

“Everyone talks about his cardio and that’s his weapon,” he said.

“Nobody says nothing about his skill set. I don’t think he’s talented, he’s more of a hard worker. He’s (got) more cardio than skills. They’re judging the cardio off beating Robbie Lawler five years ago, six years ago. He’s in for a totally different shock.

“That was a Robbie Lawler that was already washed, over the hill. That wasn’t the same Robbie Lawler that beat Rory MacDonald back in the day, or that kind of guy. All his wins he gets confidence off (are all against) older, washed guys. He’s in for a rude awakening come Saturday night.”