This week’s Outside the Octagon brings you UFC’s lightweight Muay Thai specialist, Edson Barboza.
Some fighters are known for their mesmerizing submission abilities. Other are known for their elite wrestling and their ability to take down an opponent and controlling them on the ground. When it comes to striking and ferocious kickboxing artistry there is one particular fighter that comes to mind, the Brazil-born Edson ‘Junior’ Barboza.
Known for his outstanding Muay Thai and a vast arsenal of some of the most brutal and beautiful kicks in combat sports, Barboza is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC lightweight division. Currently, he is ranked #5 in the MMA Takeover rankings. He is on a 3-winning streak, making him a potential contender to either; Tony Ferguson’s interim belt or Conor Mcgregor’s championship belt. This depending on the outcome of this Saturday’s UFC 219 fight against The MMA Takeover’s #3 ranked lightweight, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
From Muay Thai to MMA
Born on January 21, 1986, in Nova Friburgo, a town in Rio de Janeiro, southwestern Brazil, Edson Mendes Barboza Junior knew that he wanted to be a fighter from a young age. Coming from humble beginnings, he started studying and practicing the art of Muay Thai at the young age of 8 in an academy for disadvantaged children. He quickly established himself in the Brazilian Muay Thai circuit. By the age of 16 he had his first professional Muay Thai fight and at the age of 19, he was dubbed the best fighter in his weight class. Barboza cleaned out all the competition in the country thereafter with an impressive record of 25 wins in 28 fights with 23 of those being (T)KO’s and 17 happening in the first round.
However, competitive Muay Thai wasn’t very popular at the time in Brazil. Barboza found it hard to progress as a fighter due to the lack of sponsorships and monetary resources. With much sacrifice and leaving his family and girlfriend behind Barboza was advised to make a decision that would later change the course of his life. In 2009 he decided to move to the United States and pursue a career in the sport of MMA.
There he joined Jupiter’s fighting team, The Harmony. He had his MMA debut shortly after where he knocked out his first opponent in great style with a flying knee followed by punches. In less than two years he became the lightweight champion in two different organizations, Renaissance MMA and Ring of Combat. It didn’t take long for a fighter of Barboza’s caliber to get noticed by the UFC.
His UFC debut was against Mike Lullo at UFC 123 where he got the KO via what would become one of his major assets to date, (leg) kicks. Barboza wrote his name down in the history of the company when in 2012 he knocked out his opponent, Terry Etim via wheel kick. This was the first time it ever happened in the company’s existence and it handed Barboza one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history.
The successful run in the UFC opened doors for Barboza. He and his good friend, fellow UFC fighter, Marlon Moraes opened his own gym, Valor Martial Arts around 2012. Edson now trains with some of the biggest names in the sport including the well-known boxing coach Mark Henry, the former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and under the guidance of the veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s fourth-degree black belt, Ricardo Almeida.
Behind Every Great Man, There’s a Great Woman
Now, we’ve all heard the saying, ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’ and Barboza is no exception. At a young age, his mother used to work very hard and still managed to save some extra money to pay for his transport to Muay Thai training. Then there is his wife. At the beginning of his MMA journey, Barboza had to work really hard. On top of training and fighting, he also taught Muay Thai lessons in order to earn money and bring his girlfriend to the United States.
After one year his girlfriend, Bruna, she was able to travel to the US to support Barboza in his journey. Bruna left behind a promising career in Journalism in Brazil to dedicate most of her time to her husband. It has now been almost eight years that they have been living together in the US and Bruna has been one of Barboza’s pillars to success.They’ve been together for 13 years. have been married for seven, and have a son called Noah. Surprisingly, Bruna and Barboza both train together and Barboza believes that Bruna has enough talent to become a fighter herself. However, she currently works as his public relations agent and is there to motivate her husband whenever he needs it. This encouragement is needed most around weight cutting times where the fighter is at his lowest.
At UFC 219, Barboza will step in the octagon to compete in his toughest fight to date where he will be facing a fighter who is known as one of the best grapplers in the sport. Two completely different styles will clash in what is one of the most anticipated fights of the year. In one side Edson ‘Junior’ Barboza who’s known for his incredible Muay Thai swiftly adapted to MMA, where one kick can end the fight. On the other side, we have the undefeated Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, an unorthodox and accomplished grappler with wrestling and one of the best ground and pound ever seen in the sport.
Barboza will have the opportunity to prove once again that his modern striking style is a true danger to any fighter who crosses his path.