UFC Philadelphia: Edson Barboza vows clash with Justin Gaethje will be real deal 'true fight'

Edson Barboza
(Inovafoto/UFC)

Heading into the third round of his December bout against Dan Hooker, Edson Barboza had things well under control. He came out to begin the final stanza and turned it on, using his high-level Muay Thai to connect on many spinning back kicks and knees to Hooker’s body. It was evident that referee Rob Hinds should have stopped the fight right there, but he let it continue until a devastating left hook left him with no choice but to end the battle.

One could also make the argument that Barboza, who headlines UFC Philadelphia on Saturday when he takes on Justin Gaethje, could have let up a bit knowing he had the fight well in hand. But just don’t tell Barboza that.

“The referee is only one who should stop the fight, and they can do it whenever they want,” Barboza told Sporting News. “If the referee says to keep going then I’m going to keep going. If the referee doesn’t stop, I’m going to continue to hurt my opponent very bad. I’m a fighter. I’m there to hurt the other guy (laughs).”

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For a moment, you would think Barboza was joking around. After a long pause, the master of the leg kicks got dead serious and elaborated.

“I have zero compassion inside the Octagon,” Barboza proudly proclaimed. “Even when the fight is happening and I know the opponent is hurt, it makes me try harder to finish them (laughs). And that’s the truth. It’s a fight. To win, you need to hurt the other guy. It’s me doing my job to hurt the other guy as much as possible.”

Growing up in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Barboza tried a couple of different sports like track and soccer. But when he was eight-years-old, his parents put him in boxing. After his first day at the gym, Barboza got hooked, and his martial arts career began, and the rest is history.

“I was just like, ‘Wow,’ Barboza exclaimed. “When people asked back then what I wanted to be when I grow up, I told them that I wanted to be a fighter. I’ve been fighting my entire life. I’m a fighter. I was born for this. Thank god I’m here right now.”

The fight between Barboza and Gaethje is one fans have been anticipating since the latter signed with the UFC in 2017 because of their will to stand in the middle of the Octagon and unleash heavy artillery with no regard for what might come back at them in return. You don’t see the fighting style as much as you did in the UFC during the 1990s. 

“Because they are boring,” Barboza says point blank on why we don’t see fighters like him and Gaethje. “A lot of fights are boring. I’m a big fight fan. Some people are going to change the channel because these fighters aren’t doing anything. Sometimes people need to see some trash talk before the fight because they know the fight isn’t going to be anything special. Everybody knows that every time I step inside the Octagon, I’m going to put on a show.” 

A win for either Barboza or Gaethje leaves them in the land of the unknown in the lightweight division with titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov suspended until July and not expected to fight until the fall. Then there’s Dustin Poirier, Barboza’s teammate at American Top Team, battling featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim 155-pound belt at UFC 236 on April 13.

The 33-year-old doesn’t reveal whether he would face Poirier if they win their upcoming contests. The only thing he would say about the matter is that a win inches him closer to the gold. 

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That being said, fight fans can expect him and Gaethje to leave their blood, sweat, and tears inside the Octagon with no disregard to the pain they will inflict upon one another. 

“This is the fight I wanted,” Barboza said. “I was very excited when it got brought up to me. He’s a true fighter. He’s an outstanding fighter. I’m a big fan of this fight because it should be a great fight. One thing I do know is that he and I are true fighters. There’s no trash talk. People can expect a true fight on Saturday. Two guys are going to leave it all inside the Octagon.”