'Minotauro' Fandom Sparks Fire for Barboza Before UFC 134


Undefeated hot prospect Edson Barboza will face the most important fight of his career this Saturday, as he faces TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson at UFC 134. Beyond the fact that he will be fighting in his home state Rio de Janeiro, Barboza will debut in the main card, after two impressive wins over Mike Lullo and Anthony Njokuani that moved his MMA record to 8-0.

Brazil's hottest name in the lightweight division sees this develop as a natural consequence of his hard work at The Armory team in Jupiter, Fla.

“My focus is always on my work. Apart from fighting on the main card or preliminary card, I just want to enter the octagon and do my best, do what I know," Barboza told Sherdog.com. "It doesn't matter where or how, it doesn't scare me."

But, that's not to say that Barboza is unaware of how his career has been progressing since debuting in the UFC.

"It's nice to see how things are developing for me," he admitted. "First I fought on the preliminary card, with no TV, then they put me on Spike TV's card, and now I'm fighting on the main card, with worldwide pay-per-view."

Against Pearson, the Novo Friburgo native will have a perfect opportunity to show his impressive muay Thai skills against another striker. To not get caught by Pearson's savvy boxing, he is working on his distance game, trying to take full advantage of the nearly four-inch reach advantage he has over the Brit.

“I always try to tip the scale in my favor. I try to use my height advantage always, surely it can help me," he explained. "But I need to be prepared to fight any fighter, so I train hard with small and big guys also. Working with Luiz Cane has been working very well for me. It helped me defeat Njokuani, who is taller than me."

Unlike many UFC fighters, Barboza didn't always have the dream to become a MMA star. He actually wanted to have a long and distinguished muay Thai career, but the opportunities were scarce.

“I won everything I could in Brazilian muay Thai, but doors didn't open to me, so my mentor Anderson Franca and my manager Alex Davis saw better opportunities for me in the U.S., and we made the decision to join The Armory team," he explained. "My main focus was to fight K-1, but thank God MMA appeared to me, I saw it was what I wanted to do and now, I don't see myself doing anything else."

One thing that has weighed on the mind of the 25-year-old is that he will be the last one to fight before one of Brazil's greatest fighting idols, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who returns to the UFC after an injury-riddled 16 months to take on Brendan Schaub.

Barboza has spent recent days in Rio de Janeiro at Team Nogueira, so he has had the chance to stay closer to his idols. But, what he is really looking forward to is Friday's weigh-ins.

“I was talking the other day with my wife Bruna and Luiz Cane, still in disbelief that we will be in the weigh-in line beside 'Minotauro,' Anderson Silva, 'Shogun'," he smiled. "I think I'llonly believe it after it happens. It's a dream to be in the lineup with those guys."

However, the one fighting idol that Barboza saves a special affection for is obvious.

“I'm a huge fan of Rodrigo 'Minotauro.' I always get nervous, my hands starts sweating when he fights. He is a guy that, when he gets punched, it's like I've got punched too," Barboza explained.

"He is, without a doubt, my greatest idol in MMA."

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