Edson Barboza has been begging the UFC matchmakers to finally give him a top 10 opponent, and he’ll get his wish this weekend in Orlando when he face Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in what could end up being one best fights in the lightweight division.
Barboza enters the fight after a close win over Danny Castillo in December, but overall the former Muay Thai competitor is 7-1 in the UFC and may be the most feared striker at 155 pounds not named Anthony Pettis.
With a devastating array of leg kicks that have crippled two past opponents to the point where the fight had to be stopped, Barboza is ready to test his striking against Cerrone, but make no mistake this isn’t a kickboxing match despite everyone’s grand plans for how this unfolds.
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Barboza has worked tirelessly over the last few years to become a true mixed martial artist, so as much as he loves the knockout, he’s going to take whatever openings Cerrone gives him.
I look at all the guys in my division and I know I can beat everybody
— Edson Barboza
"Everybody is excited for a standup fight. It’s a MMA fight though," Barboza told FOX Sports. "I trained jiu-jitsu so hard, I never stop, and I’m today an MMA fighter. I don’t think about myself as only a standup fighter. If the opportunity comes to take him down, I’ll take him down. If he gives me the opportunity to play jiu-jitsu, that’s when I’ll play jiu-jitsu. I’m an MMA fighter. I think everyday about an MMA fight. I don’t think about striking or jiu-jitsu, I’m an MMA fighter, I play everything."
When he got the call about the fight, Barboza was immediately excited for the opportunity to face Cerrone on a stage like the one they’ll have on FOX Saturday night. While some fighters like to talk trash or get in an opponent’s face trying to intimidate them, that’s not Barboza’s style at all.
As a matter of face, Barboza loves watching Cerrone fight and it’s a big par tof the reason he was so happy to land a fight with him this weekend. There’s no greater honor than facing an opponent you respect, and Barboza is over the moon to share the cage with Cerrone in Orlando.
"Cowboy is one of my favorite fighters to watch," Barboza said. "He’s very aggressive, very good standup, he goes for the finish all the time. He looked good in his last fight. I watched and he was looking very good. He is one of the best of this division, and I know I can beat this guy. I look at all the guys in my division and I know I can beat everybody."
The tireless effort of landing a ranked opponent wasn’t easy, but Barboza knows this is finally his chance to prove he belongs with the best in the world.
Considering that Cerrone’s only losses have come to champions, former champions and one top five-ranked lightweight, beating him is not only a huge accomplishment — it means you are ready to challenge the top fighters at 155 pounds.
Barboza hopes he gets to achieve that goal very soon and beating Cerrone is the best way to get there.
"He is one of the best guys in the UFC. I’m ready for the title for sure," Barboza said. "A good fight with him will give me the opportunity, or I’ll be very, very close for the title shot."