As Brazilian striking specialist Edson Barboza (11-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) puts the finishing touches on the preparations for his upcoming UFC 162 appearance, he’s brimming with confidence. After all, 13 fights into his MMA career, the knockout artist believes he’s finally found all the answers – or at least, “The Answer.”
“The first day I trained with these guys over here, I felt like I was at home,” Barboza told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) through an interpreter. “The whole team welcomed me in. The first day I boxed with coach Mark Henry, it was like I had met him 15 years ago. Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie are such nice guys. Frankie Edgar is a great person. Everyone here helps each other.
“Things were so great, I brought my partner Marlon Moraes to train here with us. Then I brought my muay Thai master Anderson Franca from Brazil. I think it all fit really well because they brought to my camp the piece that I was missing, but on the other hand I brought them the piece that they were missing in their camp. We all are like family now, and I am very blessed to be part of this.”
Barboza, a Brazilian native, began his MMA career in 2009 in the U.S. He relocated to Florida in 2009 and opened a gym, Valor Martial Arts, in Palm Beach Gardens. His striking prowess earned him immediate success in the MMA ranks, rattling off 10 straight wins to open his career, including a “Knockout of the Year” strike to Terry Etim‘s chin at UFC 142.
But Barboza’s incredible rise took a detour in May 2012, when he was upset by late-replacement opponent Jamie Varner. It was a disappointing result that left Barboza admittedly searching for answers. He found them in a trip to New Jersey to train with former UFC lightweight champ Edgar.
The results were evident in Barboza’s return fight, a January submission-by-strikes win over countryman Lucas Martins.
“It was important to prove to myself that I am getting better and also that I have more to show to UFC fans,” Barboza said. “Also, it was good to know that I am on the right path being part of the best team I could ask for.
“I have been training with Frankie Edgar’s team since his last fight against Benson Henderson. Since then, I couldn’t leave this group. They all are great people and partners. I’m blessed to be part of this.”
Barboza returns to action at next week’s UFC 162 event at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, where he meets Rafaello Oliveira (15-5 MMA, 2-4 UFC) on the evening’s FX-broadcast preliminary card. It’s a potentially challenging matchup for Barboza, who was originally slated to face Canadian striker John Makdessi, until injury forced a change in opponents.
“I think Makdessi is a pretty good striker while Rafaello has a good game on the ground,” Barboza said. “They have really different games from each other.
“I know Rafaello might be looking to wrestle. It’s an MMA fight, so I have been training everything: boxing, wrestling, jiu-jistu and muay Thai. Anything can happen in a MMA fight.”
But Barboza said his real confidence isn’t coming from any particular set of techniques. Instead, it’s the extra momentum he received by training alongside Edgar for the past two months as he also prepped for a UFC 162 appearance, his coming against Brazilian featherweight Charles Oliveira.
“I think Frankie is one of the fighters that has the most will of anyone in the UFC,” Barboza said. “I mean, he is always doing his best in training, and even when he gets tired he keeps himself pushing hard. It is really cool to see.
“I have been leaning a lot of new techniques from coach Mark, Ricardo and Renzo. They all are great people. I think I’ve been learning everything over here, from attitude to improved techniques.”
While a win wouldn’t necessarily vault Barboza into the division’s top-10, it would put him at 5-1 in the UFC and earn him consideration for a matchup with a big name in the sport. He insists he’s not looking past UFC 162, but Barboza – already a three-time “Fight of the Night” winner in the octagon – knows there could be bright days ahead.
“Right now, I am focused on my next fight, but yes, of course I am looking forward to fighting against the best fighters,” Barboza said. “I am focused on doing my best inside of the octagon, and you can expect a great Edson, doing what he loves to do.”
For more on UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.