Edson Barboza doesn’t get scared by much, but when he made the trip from Florida to Philadelphia in February for a press tour to promote this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event against Justin Gaethje, he did shiver a little.
“I really don’t miss the Jersey weather,” laughed Barboza. “I was so scared.”
The move from New Jersey and the Iron Army squad to Florida and American Top Team made headlines last July, but the reason had nothing to do with any drama with his former team.
“It was important to make my family happy,” said Barboza. “Now I feel my wife and my son have a really good time every single day in Florida. Sometimes in the north you have a hard time to live, but I’m very, very happy because I see my family happy all the time now.”
And if the family’s happy, Edson is happy.
“I agree a hundred percent,” he laughs.
It’s the latest example of the reality that the 33-year-old is one of the sport’s good guys, which always makes it funny to see the switch in demeanor when he enters the Octagon and becomes a punisher of the highest order. Yet as Barboza points out, he’s still the same guy, but he’s got a job to do.
“I know when they close the door to the cage, it’s time to work,” he said. “I worked a long time for that time, and I don’t need to change. I am that guy. The good Edson and the bad Edson is the same guy. When the referee says ‘Go,’ the bad Edson’s coming, but they’re the same guy.”
So it’s no surprise that while good Edson is doing whatever it takes to get the win, when the fight is over, he does hope that all is well for his opponent.
“When the fight’s over, of course,” he said when asked if he ever worries about his opponents. “But in the middle of the fight, of course not. I’m trying to really hurt the guy. Everything I throw, I’m trying to get him, but when the fight’s finished, I know he’s probably got a family, he’s got to go home. He’s not a friend, but I definitely think about my opponents and I want them to recover fast and come back to work.”
That’s a true martial artist and fighter, and when it was announced that he was going to meet another one of the truest fighters in the sport in Gaethje, everyone got excited, especially Barboza.
“When I started talking about this fight with my manager, I was very happy because I know this is gonna be a true fight,” he said. “It’s two warriors and that’s the kind of fight that makes me excited. I spent a little time with him here (on the media tour) and he’s a respectful guy, but when the cage closes, it’s gonna be a big war. I’m a big MMA fan and that’s one fight I know when I finish it, I will go straight to the TV to watch it because I know it’s gonna be a big war and a good fight.”
Barboza-Gaethje is as close as we can get to a sure thing in this sport, as compelling standup action is almost guaranteed. But there is that chance that Gaethje will dig into his bag of tricks as a former Division I All-American wrestler and turn the tables on the Muay Thai specialist. If that happens, no worries, says Barboza.
“I always prepare for an MMA fight,” he said. “I train a lot of wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and everybody knows if the fight stays on the feet, it’s good for me and I’ll be very happy. But wherever the fight goes, I’ll be ready.”
We’ll be ready, too, because when Barboza is in the Octagon, it’s never a boring night.
“The most important thing for me is that I have this feeling from the fans because everybody knows that every time I step in there, I give my best,” he said. “I put everything in the cage and I show you guys a good show. It makes me very motivated, very strong to keep doing that. I have 20 fights in UFC and it looks like my first. I’m still motivated, still happy, I still love my job, and I’m still very excited, especially for this fight coming up.”