Following a lengthy lightweight run where he was a fixture in the Top 10, the 35-year-old opted to drop down a division and bring his talents to the 145-pound ranks last year, landing opposite Dan Ige in his debut.
Much like his final fight at lightweight, his first appearance in the featherweight division left a sour taste in Barboza’s mouth as he came away on the unhappy side of a split decision verdict, which extended his losing streak to three and left him with just a single victory in his previous six bouts.
“(Losing a fight like that) is so difficult because I train so hard, I always give my best, and when something like that happens, it’s so frustrating — not only for me, but for my team, for my family,” said Barboza, reflecting on the loss to Ige.
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While the result was disappointing, the silver lining to the experience was that the Brazilian veteran made the 145-pound weight without issue and felt good coming out of the contest.
After being admittedly nervous about both making weight and how he would perform heading into the bout, the South Florida-based fighter was excited about his future prospects in the featherweight ranks once the frustration of the loss dissipated.
“The first fight was so scary because it’s the first time in a long, long, long, long, long time I dropped to ’45 to fight,” said Barboza. “I was scared to get tired and scared to lose my strength or something like that, but after the first one, I talked to my team and said, ‘I want to stay at 145 because I fought three rounds, I feel great, I know I can push more and do a better job’ and you saw that in my last fight.”
Just under five months after the disappointing loss to Ige in Jacksonville, Florida, Barboza traveled to Abu Dhabi. Originally scheduled to face emerging prospect Sodiq Yusuff, the American Top Team representative shared the cage with Makwan Amirkhani instead after the veteran stepped in for the injured Contender Series graduate.
Once again, the fight went the distance, but this time, when the final horn sounded, there was no doubt that Barboza was the victor… at least not as far as everyone besides Barboza was concerned.