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Edson Barboza – Finding A New Destiny

"I ask the fans to come before the main card, because they'll see a guy determined to display the best. And it doesn't matter if it is a preliminary or not, UFC is always great, so whoever is in their seats early will see a great show."
Born and raised in Nova Friburgo, a highland city in Rio de Janeiro, UFC newcomer Edson Barboza - who faces Mike Lullo on the preliminary portion of UFC 123 this weekend - was a fearless young man when his focus was linked to Muay Thai competitions.      
      
The lightweight with the ferocious fists and kicks always figured in the Brazilian top five when it came to striking, and his power and accuracy almost guaranteed a knockout loss to his opponents and promised fans and the media that a backward step wouldn’t be seen from Barboza.   
   
A prototype Muay Thai fighter - tall, quick and lethal – Barboza started early, being introduced to the art when he was only eight years old. And what started just as a means to calm down an excitable boy became a career.   
   
"I started very young in Muay Thai, in the hangar of a Samba entity," he says of his beginnings. "My father didn't have the ability to put me in paid martial arts classes, so I joined this social project which taught Muay Thai to kids. Then my passion for the sport started from the very first contact."   
   
From the first touch of gloves in training until his first match, the young Barboza didn't waste much time. In the same year he started knowing Muay Thai, he tested the part of his being that what would eventually earn him status, respect and titles - his will.    
   
"I beat my opponent when he didn't answer the bell for round two. That was my first technical knockout (laughs). The kid didn't stop crying and I was victorious. I still have the tape saved."   
   
A proud memory for family and friends nowadays, it seems a bit curious how a mother could permit her beloved young son to train in a full-contact sport. But don't get me wrong, Barboza's mother didn't like it in the beginning, and still doesn't completely, as she doesn’t watch his professional fights, but with the support of his father, who put him in that social project back in 1994, the Muay Thai ace, a member of Team Anderson Franca, excelled.   
   
"I got the Brazilian championship, the Brazilian Circuit and the Demoliton Grand Prix," he said, listing his important titles, but his true growth came in one of his only three defeats. "We had a Grand Prix named La Gara, with four fights to be the champion, I lost the final (to Tadeu San Martino), but I was fighting in a division above mine (167). I knocked three guys out and the competition was very important to show my disposition to overcome hurdles."   
   
The Demolition GP, held in 2007, was a solid chapter into the life of Barboza. He knocked out his first two opponents, one of them the K-1 World MAX participant, Marfio Canolleti, and avenged his defeat in the final against San Martino. With 100% of his focus turned in one direction - the K-1 World MAX in Japan - Barboza was thisclose to making a life fighting stand-up, a dream that didn't come out of his mind after the insignificant payout he got at his first pro fight.   
   
But Barboza didn't count on the power of silence.   
   
"My manager tried to contact and deal with Japan several times, but no positive words were being received. After one year without anything happening, we resolved to opt for the MMA path - doors were opened this way and I could work my career better."   
   
The change was extreme. Considering Barboza was a Muay Thai fighter with zero MMA experience and with the level of the sport nowadays, he could need a time to adapt that would cost him opportunities and, even worse, victories. However, he had some surprises following his switch, as he had been cross training with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu guys and a manager, Alex J. Davis, who is a black belt in BJJ and Judo.   
   
"I polished the Muay Thai of BJJ black belt Flavio Serafim and he taught me BJJ for fun," said the BJJ blue-belt. "So my entrance into MMA was easy because I trained BJJ for a long time. After moving to USA I increased that with top level guys like Eduardo Guedes, Rafael Chaves, Pablo Popovich, Wagner Ceara, Rodrigo Cavaca, Marcos Buchecha and Thiago Abreu - that's Team Armory - along with Joe Mullings, and they were necessary to transform me into a competitive MMA athlete."   
 
The move to Jupiter, Florida in 2008 was the start for Barboza to join the MMA community. It was a tough beginning, as he was missing his wife, friends and family, but he was supported by the new team that not only served to prepare him for his matches, but provided the Brazilian newcomer a perfect environment for repeating in MMA what he did in Muay Thai. And having his wife, Bruna, living with him a few months after his arrival, kept Barboza tranquil enough to smash opponents and grab a 6-0 record and two belts. 
 
"I was never under pressure," says the man who has two belts, Renaissance MMA and Ring of Combat. "I entered and did my job. My routine was training, training and more training." 
 
The 5'11'' lightweight comes to the Octagon using the same aggressive style that made his name in Muay Thai and has earned him six stoppages in his MMA career. The reach advantage he'll have on Lullo is also a weapon, but he disagrees that it's the main one. 
 
"My range is really good compared to the majority of the lightweights and it helps me in the stand up. But I don't see a large advantage, as guys are adapting themselves to face this adversity." 
 
Trusting in his camp instead of over studying his foe, Barboza leaves a final message for fight fans. 
 
"I ask the fans to come before the main card, because they'll see a guy determined to display the best. And it doesn't matter if it is a preliminary or not, UFC is always great, so whoever is in their seats early will see a great show." 


 

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