I recently had the chance to talk to fighter Edson Barboza, and he shared some interesting insight to his busy life.
Garrett Derr: You spent the early stages of your life competing in kickboxing. You then made the transition to MMA. What was the deciding factor in making this move? Was there someone who influenced you to pick up MMA?
Edson Barboza: Yes, I competed muay Thai since I was eight years old until at 21 years of age. I made this transition to MMA, because even with my record of 28 fights, 25 wins, 23 by knockout, I couldn't keep working on my muay Thai career. I was voted as the best muay Thai fighter in Brazil after I won the Demolition Fight GP. I did three fights at the same night and I won all of them.
Muay Thai was my dream to work on. But this type of sport was not recognized in Brazil. After I had done my best fights over there I had no more sponsorship, I had no more opponents, I had no more fights scheduled, and I had no more classes to teach. So, I couldn't survive in this sport in Brazil.
That's why my manager Alex Davis and my master Anderson Franca sat down and talked that it was the time to change my life. I loved to be a fighter and to to continue my career as a fighter I should change. It was from there that I decided to leave behind my dream of fighting muay Thai and begin my MMA career.
My manager Alex Davis influenced me to make that decision. He knew that I had a dream to be a fighter and I could do that. So, he came to me several times and said "Hey Junior, do you want to be a fighter?" I was then told that I could do it, but I needed to make a transition to mixed martial art'. So, after I tried everything that I could do to be fighting muay Thai and I had no results. I came to Alex and said "Let's do it. I will be an MMA fighter."
Alex knew an American guy named Joseph Mullings, owner of the Armory gym, and this guy was looking for an MMA fighter who could also teach muay Thai at his gym. So, they invited me to come to US, work, and start to be an MMA fighter over here. I accepted the invitation of them and here I am. I have been living and fighting in Florida for three years now.
GD: You've had a ton of success and you're coming off a big win over Terry Etim at UFC 142. You knocked him out with a move that we hardly ever see. Where does the spinning heel kick knockout rank all time in terms of your achievements?
EB: I can't say exactly where it is in my achievements. But, it was amazing, right? Thank God I was able to do it in the right way and at the right time. To be honest I don't train that kick too much. I usually train the basic things like low kicks and body kicks. Actually, I know that kick since I was eight years old, but I don't usually apply this kick in my training camp.
GD: You've fought four times in the UFC now and in three of them you've walked away with the "Fight of the Night" award. Do you consider yourself the most exciting fighter in the sport? What is it that makes you more exciting than the rest of them?
EB: I don't consider myself as the most exciting fighter. There are a lot of exciting fighter at UFC, like Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, and many others. When I am training for a fight I just think of giving my best inside the Octagon. I fight for me, I fight for my fans, and I fight for my family. So, I want to do my best. I always try to give my 100 percent inside the Octagon. Maybe that is why I got those bonuses, and also because I had tough guys in front of me. My goal is doing my job as best as I can.
I don't have anything more special than the rest of the other fighters. I think every fighter who is inside the Octagon is tough. And, all of the fighters are there to do their best. So, it's hard to be a fighter and I respect all of them.
GD: After four great performances inside the Octagon, you're becoming recognized as a rising star. I've heard you referenced as the future Anderson Silva from Brazil. Do you feel you have the skills to become a star in the sport. How do you handle all of this added pressure?
EB: Anderson Silva is an example of a fighter to me. He is amazing. Yes, I think I have the skills to be a great fighter. I know I have a lot of things to learn and also I have to work really hard to get there. But, I am working for this. I know each fight gets harder, but I am ready for that. I am training for that.
I am focused on being a great fighter. There is some pressure in every fight, and it's just rising. But, I think the pressure stays outside of the Octagon. When the cage closes, there are the judges, my opponent, and I. Then it's time to work.
GD: Many Brazilians choose to remain in their home country to train. However, you're not one of them. How hard was it for you to leave your home country to come to Florida and train?
EB: Like I mentioned a little bit earlier, I had to make this choice to continue to be fighting. But, I don't regret that decision. I love living in Florida. I train at the Armory where there are a lot of Brazilians over there. Last year we brought my teammate from Brazil, Marlon Moraes.
My wife came to US one year after I came. My master from Brazil, Anderson Franca, comes to U.S. to train me every time that I need him. I found a true family over here in US. My coaches Joe Mullings, Eduardo Guedes, and R.J. Goodridge are great. My American fans are amazing as well. I have no words to describe them. They are always supporting me, sending me letters, and leaving messages.
Of course, it was really hard in the beginning when I didn't know anything about US. I couldn't speak the language, I was away from my family, my girlfriend and my friends. But, thank God I am at a really nice place. I have an awesome training. I enjoy living here.
GD: You're set to take on Jamie Varner at UFC 146. After four wins in the UFC, were you expecting a "bigger name" this time out? Were you disappointed in being given this matchup considering Varner hasn't done much in the last three years?
EB: I want to fight no matter who will be my opponent, I want to fight and I want to work. I think Jamie Varner is a good name? He was a champion in WEC. If he came back to fight in the UFC it means that he is tough. This fight will be a war and I am ready for that.
GD: Your strength lies in your ability to knockout your opponent. Varner has never been knocked out in his career. He also has great submission skills. What have you done differently training for an opponent like him?
EB: I know he is a good boxer and good wrestler. My training is focused on my own game and what I have to do.
GD: I know you started fighting when you were just eight years old. Who motivated you to start fighting? How difficult has it been to maintain that same motivation over the course of the past 18 years?
EB: I always loved sports and I enjoyed watching movies of fighting. I used to be a very active child and knew I should spend my energy to a sport. But, I grew up in a financially poor family and my parents were unable to afford for me to play sports in an organized league.
The opportunity came along for me when I could enter in a special project that taught muay Thai for underprivileged children in my neighborhood. This took place in Nova Friburgo and Rio de Janeiro. The project was held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
I think my motivation comes from the love of my job. I love to be a fighter. I love to train. And also, I think my motivation comes from my goals and my plans. I want to be the best. I want to be fighting against the best fighters in the world. I like to be challenging myself. I think those are the things where my motivation comes from.
GD: I understand you're an avid Christian. What do you have to say to those who believe fighting is against the Christian faith? Many believe fighting is a bad thing. What is your response?
EB: Each one has their own religion and I totally respect it. Each fighter likes to thank someone or something after the fight, I like to thank God. I knew a lot of Christians who didn't like fighting. I respect them. It's their opinion. But, since they knew more about fighting and more about the fighter lives, they changed their minds. I am not here to say "you have to believe in what I believe" or "you have to like fighting because I like fighting.
Every person believes in one thing. It means civilization and it means democracy. There is respect in that. I believe in God. Jesus in my hero. I love fighting and love being a fighter. Nothing will change it. Who doesn't believe in it, I respect them. That's it.
Garrett Derr is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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