Edson Barboza sees UFC on FOX 31 as the start of a run towards the lightweight belt, but also a fight that represents many changes in his personal life.
The Brazilian lightweight moved from New Jersey to Florida in July, switching camps from Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida’s gym to American Top Team, and says everything has been positive since.
Booked to face Dan Hooker in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC event in Milwaukee, Barboza said the biggest transformation the move brought was in terms of quality of life.
”My personal life was horrible there,” Barboza told MMA Fighting. “Nothing related to training or training partners, nothing at all. My life with my family, my wife, we didn’t have many close friends there, so it was horrible, unbearable, and that was one of the many reasons why I moved.
”I’m in love (with Florida). Doors are open, sun is out there, my son can go play outside. I live five minutes away from the gym, so everything is perfect. Weather is good almost all year. I’m here since July and I don’t think I’ve used shoes once [laughs]. My son is happy, my wife is happy, and that makes the difference for me.”
As an athlete, moving to ATT meant having new training partners and coaches, but one key member of his crew hasn’t changed. Anderson Franca, Barboza’s Muay Thai coach since the fighter’s early days in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, has also moved to Florida.
Now looking to snap a two-fight skid to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee, Barboza is entering his 20th Octagon appearance vowing to show how much he has evolved as a mixed martial artist over the past few months.
”It’s hard to say right now what has changed because I might get there Saturday and you say I haven’t changed a thing, but get ready,” Barboza said with a smile. “One thing I can say, you’ll see a different fighter, different than the Edson Barboza you saw in those 19 fights.
”He’s coming up,” Barboza added of Hooker, who is 4-0 with four stoppages over Gilbert Burns, Jim Miller, Marc Diakiese and Ross Pearson since moving up to lightweight in 2017. “I’m still one of the best, I’m in the top five, so get ready because it will be a war. … It’s a MMA fight, everyone I fought always tried to take me down. I believe he will shoot at my legs to try to take me down eventually.”
Barboza has no specific prediction for how he foresees himself beating the New Zealand-native at UFC’s final show on FOX, but he expects to be “in the mix” with a win Saturday.
”There are only four guys ahead of me in the ranking, that’s not much,” Barboza said, referring to 155-pound contenders Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Lee. “Beating this guy and then one more, I believe I’ll be knocking on the door for my shot at the belt.”