When you hear someone referred to as a “martial artist,” it’s easy to ignore the oxymoron of the term.
By definition, a martial artist – martial, meaning “warlike,” and artist, meaning “a person who practices in the creative arts, like painting, sculpting, filmmaking or writing” – is someone who is “creatively warlike.”
After watching UFC lightweight Edson “Junior” Barboza train at Ricardo Almeida Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy for his July 16th fight against Evan Dunham at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, one comes away with the idea that the term was invented just for him.
“He’s got beautiful footwork and just gorgeous kicks,” says trainer Mark Henry. “Not just kicks that look good; he’s got devastating timing and power in those kicks.”
At 5’11” tall, the 28-year-old Brazilian is big for the lightweight division. He is a Muay Thai specialist with nine wins coming via knockout, usually in spectacular fashion, most notably a highlight reel spinning heel kick against Terry Etim in January 2012.
But against Dunham, Barboza will have his hands full against an opponent who doesn’t know the meaning of quit.
“You’ve got two studs back to back,” says Henry, referring to Barboza’s first-round submission loss against “Cowboy” Cerrone earlier this year. Ironically, Dunham is also coming off a submission loss to Cerrone at UFC 167 last November.
“With Dunham you will have someone coming and coming and coming, and you have to get Edson in that mindset from day one in the camp, and I think we did a good job in that,” says Henry.
Barboza was dominating Cerrone early in the fight with leg kicks, fast hands and one spinning back kick before he was tagged with a hard jab that sent him to the mat. Cerrone pounced and cinched a rear naked choke to end the fight.
For Barboza, the loss was nothing more than a learning experience.
“I watched that fight with Cowboy a thousand times,” says Barboza. “And I know that I haven’t given my hundred percent in the cage yet, but this fight I will give one hundred percent and I will get another win in my career. It’s hard, you know, I am much stronger now because of my loss to Cowboy. I believe in my stand-up and my ground game more than ever, I’ve trained harder every day since then, and mentally and physically, you guys will see the best Edson Barboza against Evan.”
Henry says he’s counseled Barboza to look at all the positives that came out of the Cerrone fight.
“Nobody has their way with Donald Cerrone like Edson did, so we look at the best things that he did in that fight to help him get it behind him.”
And with Team Frankie Edgar, Barboza has a slight, inadvertent advantage over Dunham, who visited Edgar’s camp to help Frankie train for his first title fight against Benson Henderson.
Barboza arrived at Ricardo Almeida’s at the same time.
“We know Evan well, we love Evan to death,” says Henry. “He came down and helped us train with Frankie for Benson Henderson, but with Edson coming off a loss to Cerrone, we really didn’t have a say in accepting the fight against Evan. We are all huge Evan Dunham fans here in New Jersey. Everyone at Ricardo Almeida loves Evan Dunham, and we always support fighters who help us, but we didn’t have a choice really. He’s a great fighter and an amazing guy too. How can you not love a guy who has Performance of the Night type fights every time out? This fight is going to be epic.”
Barboza shared this camp with Edgar, who beat BJ Penn at the TUF 19 Finale July 6th, and with the most recent TUF winner, Corey Anderson, who also signed up with Team Edgar, so there’s been no shortage of activity among the fighters in south Jersey.
“I fight with Frankie, (WSOF featherweight champion) Marlon Moraes, Akira Corassani, Frankie Perez and now we have Corey Anderson, so I’m always around great fighters. We train hard every day, thank God,” says Barboza, who started his U.S. professional fighting career at The Armory in Florida.
“There were two different Edson Barbozas,” says Edson. “The one who trained at the Armory, and the one who trains with Ricardo Almeida. The coaches here show me something new every day. If I want to be the best I have to live this life. I have to be around champions every day. I can get more experience for fighting and for life. My coaches are all family men, and they teach me about life. This is a good moment for me because my wife is pregnant, and I have a fight soon, and I’m very excited for this moment. The doctor said 85% we are having a boy but I go to the doctor next week to see for sure but I think we’re having a boy, and if we do I will name him Noah Barboza. I’m very excited. I’m very, very happy. My first son. My life is great.”
For the Brazilian, NJ has become his second home, and fighting in Atlantic City is very familiar for the former Ring of Combat champion.
“Dunham is a really tough guy, he’s one of the best for sure. I want to give my best, I want to win this fight. I’ve fought in Atlantic City about four times now, so to me it’s my second home for fighting. I’m very comfortable there. When I step in the cage I am going to give my best and win this fight.”