It’s time for a bigger challenge for Edson Barboza.
Coming off a back-and-forth battle against Danny Castillo in December, Barboza is set to take on MMA veteran Donald Cerrone at UFC on FOX 11 on April 19, and he aims for the top of the division with a win in Orlando, Fla.
"Whenever the UFC think it’s my time to fight for the title, I will be ready," Barboza told MMAFighting.com. "That’s up to the UFC."
Riding a three-fight win streak after the only blemish in his professional MMA record, a TKO loss to Jamie Varner, the Brazilian lightweight knows that he needs more wins against top competition to get closer to a shot at the gold.
"It’s a division full of great and tough fighters, and I’m one of them," he said. "I’m going for it. Nobody was able to keep the title for too long, it’s not like we have a reigning champion for a long time, so it proves how close this division is."
Barboza has scored eight knockouts in his 13 MMA wins, and Cerrone’s 14 submission victories could indicate that Greg Jackson’s protégé’s best strategy would be a mix of takedowns and ground game against the muay thai expert.
"I don’t know if he will try to take me down," Barboza said. "I don’t think he will, but if he does and I think that there’s where I can finish the fight, I’ll fight him on the ground.
"I train wrestling with New Jersey’s best at Elite Wrestling. I’m working a lot my wrestling, and not only my defensive wrestling. I fell in love with it and I don’t want just to use it to defend takedowns, I want to use to attack and score points. I’m a mixed martial artist, not a muay thai fighter."
"My camp has been great, I’m training a lot," he continued. "The only thing that bothers me is this cold in New Jersey, but my coaches are excellent. Ricardo (Almeida) is always working on some details on my jiu-jitsu, Mark Henry training me tons of strategy, Anderson Franca just came from Brazil to sharpen my muay thai, and you all know that my training partners are great, like Frankie Edgar, Marlon Moraes, Frank Perez and Akira Corassani."
Back to the win column with a pair of dominant performances against Lucas Martins and Rafaello Oliveira in 2013, Barboza elects his majority decision win over Castillo one of his favorites of his MMA career.
"Overcoming that situation and getting the win couldn’t be better for me," he said. "Thanks God I was so well prepared, with a great cardio, so I was able to come back pretty well in the other rounds. It was one of the best fights I ever had."