How will UFC handle Maycee Barber and Edmen Shahbazyan’s historic title aspirations?

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Jon Jones has held the record for youngest champion in UFC history for more than eight years. However, for the first time in a long time, his spot could be under threat.

Undefeated rising prospects Maycee Barber and Edmen Shahbazyan are both fixated on snapping Jones’ record, and they still have nearly two years each to do it.

Jones won light heavyweight gold for the first time at 23, defeating Mauricio Rua in March 2011 at UFC 128. Barber (8-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who is climbing the rankings at women’s flyweight, and Shahbazyan (11-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), who is doing the same at middleweight, are both 21 and have stated their shared ambition to take Jones’ record for themselves.

But is it realistic?

UFC president Dana White said it’s a challenging balance building up ultra-talented prospects like Barber and Shahbazyan.

“It’s tough,” White told MMA Junkie. “I always say getting into the UFC is really hard, then breaking into the top 15, top 10, top five, and becoming a World champion is almost impossible. You see these young, talented people that have these aspirations. But I love that. I love people who embrace being the best and want to win the World championship. You just have to be careful in how fast you move them.”

White admits his strategy with fighter development has been flawed at times. Jones only got his opportunity to fight “Shogun” for the title because he was an injury replacement for Rashad Evans. Otherwise it could’ve been several more months before his chance came to fruition.

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That situation worked out, but White said others haven’t. So when it comes to Barber and Shahbazyan, he intends on making his moves carefully.

“I think we moved (Darren) Till a little too quick,” White said. “It didn’t seem like it at the time, but you find out the hard way. Shahbazyan looked good (at UFC 244), Maycee Barber looked good in her last outing, so we’ll see what the next step is for them. We get in a room, and we argue and go back-and-forth for hours until we figure out who we think is the right fit.”

If the chance does materialize for Barber or Shahbazyan, though, they would be the rare ones to have the chance to break Jones’ record. Rose Namajunas, who was 22 at the time, unsuccessfully fought for the UFC strawweight title at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in December 2014.

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