Gunnar Nelson: 'If you want to be a true champion, you need to finish your fights'

Gunnar Nelson, left, wants to fight the best welterweights in the UFC. Ed Mulholland for ESPN

Gunnar Nelson doesn't seem to care whom he fights, where he's ranked or how close he may be to a UFC welterweight title shot.

What he does care about is finishing fights.

Nelson (16-2-1) returned from an extended layoff this month to submit Alan Jouban at UFC Fight Night in London. He has recorded stoppages in all but one of his professional wins, which he says is no accident.

To Nelson, a finish is as important as the win itself.

"Some of these guys, they walk to their corners, and I hear, 'You're up a round,'" Nelson said. "It sounds to me like they're focused on winning a round.

"I feel like, if a fighter can finish, he needs to finish. If you want to be a true champion, you need to finish your fights. That's my view on it. If you're a champion and all your fights go the distance, you've shown you can hold a belt against top competition -- but I want to be a true champion."

Nelson, 28, is 7-2 in the UFC. He regularly declines to discuss whom he should fight next, despite nonstop questions from fans and reporters.

Immediately after Nelson's latest win, his coach, John Kavanagh, suggested on social media that Nelson should fight former title challenger Stephen Thompson next. Thompson's team, however, has expressed interest in other opponents.

"That was something [Kavanagh] cooked up himself," Nelson said about his coach's callout. "I'd love that fight, but I hear he wants either Robbie [Lawler] or Carlos [Condit]. That's OK. I'll just meet him down the line. Any of these top guys, I don't mind when I fight them. I'm going to finish them all, or most of them anyway."

More so than whom he fights, Nelson does have an opinion on when he'd like to fight. The Icelandic welterweight fought just once in 2016 due to an injury. He'd like to triple that number in 2017.

And should the year go well, Nelson is guaranteed to be in the conversation for a title shot. At the moment, that belt is held by defending champion Tyron Woodley, whom Nelson respects but feels is beatable.

Or make that finish-able.

"He's a very explosive guy," Nelson said. "He has a wrestling background and a very powerful right hand. He's got good reaction times. He's awake. That's something he showed in his fight against [Thompson]. If he wasn't fully aware and awake, he would have gotten caught.

"He's smart. He stays back. He's not overly aggressive, although he has that killer instinct in him. I think he's good. Maybe more athletic than technical in a lot of ways, but he's a good fighter."