A fighter previously linked to a leader of an international super cartel has accused his opponent of having a drug connection.

The always outspoken Sunny Edwards somehow outdid himself during the final pre-fight press conference ahead of his U.S. debut. The unbeaten IBF flyweight titlist is convinced that Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez relies on the use of illegal substances through his alignment with nutritionist Victor Conte’s SNAC program. He also claimed to be unbothered by any illegal edge he believes the San Antonio native will carry into the ring for their unification bout this weekend.

“I’m not worried about this 23-year-old kid, who needs performance enhancing substances from the historic, prolific, biggest cheater in the world advising him,” Edwards stated during Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference. “I don’t need any of that. Clean hearts always win. I’m a clean-hearted fighter. He went very quiet when I mentioned his nutritionist.”

Rodriguez sat and grinned while seated on the other side of the dais during the media session at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The venue will host their IBF/WBO unification bout this Saturday on DAZN.

Needless to say, Edwards (20-0, 4KOs) made quite a statement while in town for his first career fight in the U.S. The 27-year-old Brit has fought largely in the U.K., save for a pair of shows in Dubai while promoted by the now-defunct Probellum. Edwards made the migration to the company along with a number of other fighters previously under the management direction of MTK Global, which was co-founded by accused Irish crime lord Daniel Kinahan.

MTK and Probellum were both forced to close shop due to increasing difficulty separating from the connection to Kinahan, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury last April and is the subject of a global manhunt.

Edwards—who is not connected to any crimes whatsoever in relation to Kinahan—moved on with his career and signed with Matchroom Boxing earlier this year. The primary motivation for the move was land unification bouts with Rodriguez (18-0, 11KOs), the current WBO titleholder, and WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez.

A win over unbeaten Andres Campos in June paved the way for Edwards to proceed full steam with his targeted showdown versus Rodriguez. Edwards will attempt the fifth defense of the IBF title he claimed in April 2021 win over Moruti Mthalane.

Rodriguez previously held the WBC junior bantamweight title before he vacated to campaign at flyweight. The sport’s first-ever 2000-born fighter to win a major title became a two-division titlist when he outpointed Cristian Gonzalez to win the WBO flyweight title on April 8 in his San Antonio hometown.

It is well documented that Rodriguez gains considerable weight in between fights. Edwards has now openly questioned how he is able to shrink down to flyweight, insisting deception on the part of Conte, who was convicted and spent four months in prison for his role in the BALCO scandal at the start of the decade.

Conte has since dedicated his life to drug reform and has been an outspoken advocate for more stringent drug testing. The accusations made by Edwards suggest SNAC fighters are afforded ways to manipulate the system.

“Of course, he’s one of the best fighters. He’s with them other cheaters,” stated Edwards. “SNAC. Imagine having that logo across your gear. Imagine having the most systematic, historic cheater in world professional boxing as your nutritionist. That’s crazy to me. We know you’re struggling to make weight. If we put someone outside his hotel room, he wouldn’t make it to the ring. SNAC fighters, question marks on all of you. But I don’t care.

“I beat him with my mind, not with my body. SNAC fighters, we know what that means when you see that logo on someone’s shorts. We know exactly what that means. You got SNAC on you. That means “cheat.” Just because you passed a drug test, doesn’t mean you’re clean. You got the badge to cheat on your shorts… you might as well put that belt over here.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox