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Edson Barboza of Brazil prepares to fight Bryce Mitchell in their featherweight fight during the UFC 272 event on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Edson Barboza: The Fire Still Burns

Brazilian Veteran Reflects On His Last Outing, His Long Career, And Facing Lerone Murphy on Saturday

There have been 14 athletes that have crossed the threshold into the UFC Octagon 30 times or more over the course of their careers, ranging from all-time appearance leader Jim Miller and former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski to Ultimate Fighter alums Neil Magny, Diego Sanchez, Matt Brown, and Alex Caceres.

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Edson Barboza will become the 15th man to accomplish that feat when he steps in opposite Lerone Murphy in the main event of this weekend’s return to the UFC APEX.

“It’s awesome,” he said when asked about the milestone. “Believe it or not, the fire inside is still the same from the first fight.”

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The notion that a competitor is as hungry, as motivated more than a dozen years into their career as they were in those early days often comes off as cliche — the thing you’re supposed to say because few are going to admit they love it a little less than they did when they were just starting out — but with Barboza, there is concrete evidence to back up his statement.

Edson Barboza of Brazil prepares to face Sodiq Yusuff of Nigeria in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Edson Barboza of Brazil prepares to face Sodiq Yusuff of Nigeria in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Entering last year on a two-fight slide, the 38-year-old Brazilian earned a return to the win column in April with a first-round knockout win over Billy Quarantillo in Kansas City. From the outset, he stood toe-to-toe with the aggressive New York State native, trading shots in space, and when Quarantillo pressed forward midway through the round, Barboza greeted him with a swift knee straight up the middle, catching his chin and putting him out in a flash.

It was a reminder that “the old guy has still got it,” and six months later, Barboza put any lingering doubts about whether that was true or not to bed once and for all.

FREE FIGHT | Edson Barboza vs Billy Quarantillo

Paired off with Sodiq Yusuff in a classic “prospect versus veteran” pairing similar to this weekend’s bout with Murphy, the tenured featherweight was put on his heels almost immediately, as “Super Sodiq” came forward, connected, and had Barboza hurt.

“I was trying to hear my coach, keep my ears on my coach,” he said when asked about the early moments of his October clash with Yusuff, where he appeared on the brink of being finished. “I was there all the time. I was of course a little dizzy, but I was not out; I was there all the time.

“I don’t stop in any position because I know if I stop for a couple seconds, the referee is going to stop the fight. I tried to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, and I survived it, and (won) the fight.”

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Barboza navigated the early onslaught, minimizing the damage he took while allowing his less experienced foe to burn through some of his energy reserves, confident that if he could weather the storm, the opportunity to rally would be there, and that’s precisely what happened

While Yusuff dominated the opening stanza, Barboza controlled the remainder of the fight, utilizing the swift, technical striking skills that have kept him ranked in the Top 15 basically since the UFC Fighter Rankings were first introduced in 2013.

“In the second round, I started to feel (the fight shift),” he offered. “I started to put a little more pressure, and I saw he stepped back. I said, ‘Okay, I’ve got the distance.’ I started feeling like he stepped back a little bit, I got my distance, and that was it.

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“Time and experience are on my side right now,” added Barboza, who trails only Jon Jones, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Charles Oliveira in terms of UFC tenure amongst currently ranked fighters. “I believe it’s not easy bringing something new to me right now — this is gonna be my 30th fight in the UFC, I fought against the best guys in the world, and experience is on my side right now.”

Murphy echoed those sentiments ahead of their meeting, as well, joking that his veteran opponent wouldn’t be overly concerned with what he brings to the table this weekend after having shared the Octagon with the likes of Anthony Pettis, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Justin Gaethje in the past.

In actuality, it’s those experiences that serve as the foundation for Barboza’s maniacal work in preparation for each fight, and he’s fully aware of what his British adversary will be bringing into battle on Saturday night.

Edson Barboza vs Shane Burgos | Full Fight
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Edson Barboza vs Shane Burgos | Full Fight
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“I trained for Khabib, and I push myself like I’m training for him,” offered Barboza, explaining his approach in preparing for this and all of his fights. “Every opponent, you train a little different, but I always train my best, and that’s why I don’t think that much when people ask me, ‘Why are you still motivated to fight a guy that’s not in the rankings anymore?’

“My last couple fights, I fight the best guys in the world and I need to be ready for that!” he said in an animated fashion. “I know he’s really good; the UFC didn’t give him the main event because he’s a nice guy. He deserves it! He’s really good! I need to be ready for that.”

RELATED: Barboza's Career Highlights | Get To Know Murphy 

As much as Barboza is still in love with the process and committed to giving his full attention to each opponent as if they were the best fighter on the planet, there is another piece to the puzzle that keeps driving him at this late stage of his career, and that’s the unavoidable fact that one day, all of this will be over.

“When you get older, you learn about life,” Barboza said, detailing the new perspective that came to him following the passing of his father in 2021. “You learn everything in life has a beginning and end; you need to be sure about that. Life is gonna be over one day. I learned this when I lost my Daddy — it was the first time I realized, ‘Oh my gosh — it’s over; I can’t talk to my Daddy anymore.’

“I learned about life. I learned one day it’s gonna be over, and one day it’s gonna be over in UFC, too. One day I wanna stop fighting, that helps me to enjoy more, motivate me more because I know this is gonna be over. Maybe it’s gonna be Saturday, maybe it’s gonna be next week, maybe it’s gonna next year.

Edson Barboza of Brazil kicks Shane Burgos in their featherweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Edson Barboza of Brazil kicks Shane Burgos in their featherweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

“It really changed my life because I really understand it’s gonna be over,” he said of his father’s passing. “I started looking at my kids different. A year ago, my son was seven, now he’s eight — oh my gosh! One day, I know he’s gonna leave my house. One day I will pass.”

That reality has shifted the way Barboza now looks at things, and made these last couple years, these last couple victories even sweeter.

“It has really changed my life,” he reiterated. “100 percent (I appreciate things more), especially the people around me, the moments that are important in my life — with my family, with my fights.”

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That’s why, more than 13 years after making the walk to the Octagon for the first time, Barboza will stride into battle once again this weekend, determination in his eyes and a fire in his belly, ready to take on the next emerging threat in the featherweight division, eager to continue showing that he’s still very much in love with the game and still a force in the 145-pound weight class.

“I don’t need to prove nothing to nobody, especially not to myself, because I know how much work, how much time I give to this sport, give to going to the cage and doing my best,” Barboza said in regard to his latest main event assignment and another stiff test in a career built exclusively on those types of matchups. “But it means a lot because, like I said, I still love it, I’m still competitive.

“I still really enjoy every single second.”

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UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Murphy took place live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 18, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!