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When it comes to depth of talent, it’s no secret that one weight class in the UFC towers above all others. It’s the lightweight division, and the list of title contenders currently occupying its upper half includes Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Clay Guida and Jim Miller, not to mention talk that Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez is nearly ready to make the leap.

Another man quickly making a name for himself is 155-pound Brazilian Edson Barboza, recently announced for action against England’s Terry Etim at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro. The unbeaten Barboza, who holds a 3-0 mark inside the Octagon, was expecting to face a Top 10 fighter, but says he wasn’t at all disappointed to draw Etim.

“I’m always expecting to face top-ranked guys,” Barboza told Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “But, I’m an employee and the UFC dictates the orders. I’m not disappointed, not at all. Etim is such a tough guy and I’m sure if the UFC decided to match us up, it’s because they expect a great fight. So do I.”

Etim, who has previously trained under Brazilian luta livre expert Marcelo Brigadeiro, possesses a strong grappling background which could serve as a foil to the skills of muay Thai convert Barboza. While the 25-year-old phenom is only a BJJ blue belt, Barboza has an ace up his gi sleeve: the Nova Friburgo native is currently polishing his ground game with jiu-jitsu legend Pablo Popovitch and recent world champions Raphael Chaves and Marcus “Bochecha” Almeida.

“I want to take the pace from those guys and train BJJ even more,” he explained. “I’m not going to do anything new, because I’m not really worried about what my opponent is going to do. I’ll work as I always do, just with more attention to his guillotines and arm attacks on the ground.”

Should he nab a fourth straight UFC win, Barboza will become a true lightweight contender. Yet, even with that possibility looming, the young Brazilian sees a weight cut as a distinct possibility in the future.

“I don’t have any trouble making 155 pounds,” he revealed. “I’ve already competed many times at 145 pounds as a muay Thai fighter. I’ve already told my manager, Alex Davis, that I feel great at lightweight, but that a weight drop is a real possibility. Who knows? In the future, if I get a good opportunity, I believe I could do good work at featherweight, too.”

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