Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee traded verbal jabs after Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 112, and both ended up dropping Edson Barboza’s name in the middle of heated talk.
Lee had just finished Michael Chiesa in the main event of UFC’s show in Oklahoma City when Ferguson, who was an analyst that night for Fox Sports, took shots at him for not facing names like Barboza and Rafael dos Anjos.
Barboza, who was watching the post-fight show at home in Florida, already expected his name to pop up.
"I wanted to sleep, but I thought I had to watch the post-fight show because I knew my name would be mentioned,” Barboza told MMA Fighting. "Tony talked about me, that Lee had to face guys like me. (Lee) ie behind me in the rankings, and everyone behind me wants to fight me, just like I want to fight someone ahead of me.
"And Tony is clearly stepping aside [laughs]. He knows he’s ahead of me and I want to fight him. I want to fight everyone ahead of me."
Lee scored his fifth straight victory Sunday night, and said he’s down to facing guys like Barboza, who, according to him, are "already down the hill.”
"Honestly, I didn’t (hear that),” Barboza said of Lee’s comment, "but he’s just another kid coming up, new blood, who thinks he has style, but he will learn things the hard way, getting beat up in the cage. He will calm down soon."
Barboza is actually targeting the fighters currently ranked above him in the lightweight division, Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov — Eddie Alvarez is also above him, but they train together —, but would agree to face Lee in the cage if he’s the one available.
“(Lee) only fought one guy in the top 15,” Barboza said. "Like Ferguson said, he wasn’t tested that much yet. I’m the No. 4 in the ranking, so I think he should… I don’t think anything, actually. I want to fight someone ahead of me. But if that doesn’t happen I’d fight him, no problem."
"Honestly? I was not (impressed),” he said of Lee’s win over Chiesa. "He’s ranked, I think No. 11 or something like that. He’s one of the 15 best fighters in the UFC, and everyone is good everywhere at this level, so I wasn’t surprised."
Currently riding a three-fight winning streak in the Octagon, capped off by a vicious flying knee knockout over Beneil Dariush in March, Barboza is anxious to get back in action. He will need patience, though.
The Brazilian lightweight, who was already dealing with a left shoulder injury prior to his win over Dariush in Fortaleza, Brazil, had to go under the knife recently to fix it.
"I underwent surgery, but I’m fine already, doing physical therapy and slowly coming back to training,” he said. "God willing, I’ll be back in October, November at most… If I don’t go nuts first [laughs]. If the doctors clears me, I’ll fight next week [laughs]. I want to come back as soon as possible."
With the future still up in the air in the lightweight division, especially with 155-pound champion Conor McGregor booked to meet Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match on Aug. 26, Barboza wouldn’t be shocked if his next fight is for the UFC belt.
"That would be great,” Barboza said. "That’s what everybody wants. But I don’t know. I think Ferguson really wants to fight Khabib and Khabib really wants to fight Ferguson, so it’s hard for me to fight any of them. It’s something person. And I’m the next in line.
"We don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know when Ferguson is going to fight and when Khabib is going to fight. I might fight for the interim belt next. Actually, that’s not the interim title my opinion because the other loud mouth is not the real champion. To me, the belt is vacant.
“(McGregor vs. Mayweather) is a lack of respect to the UFC and other athletes. I can’t understand this. (Germaine de Randamie) didn’t want to defend her belt against Cris Cyborg and automatically lost her belt, and this guy is fighting in a different sport, he left (the UFC), and doesn’t lose his belt. It’s hard for me to understand this."
All criticism aside, can McGregor beat such a talented boxer in his own sport? Barboza doesn’t doubt it.
"As a fighter, I have to believe,” the Brazilian said. "I believe I beat both of them, honestly. (McGregor) does have a chance, it’s a fight. It’s tough, Mayweather is one of the greatest of all times. He has a chance, but it’s slim."