Raoni Barcelos has finally arrived.
The former RFA featherweight champion signed with the UFC back in 2017, but it took a while before he finally entered his first UFC fight week. Now set to debut against Kurt Holobaugh at Saturday’s UFC Boise card, Barcelos wants to show it was worth the wait.
Barcelos experienced a roller-coaster of emotions over the past 12 months. After successfully defending his RFA belt for a second time in 2016, Barcelo first had his subsequent LFA bout cancelled, then was offered a short-notice UFC chance to replace an injured Augusto Mendes, however his opponent ultimately pulled out with an injury.
Now, after being under contract with the company for nine months, Barcelos will finally make his walk to the Octagon.
“Now I can say I’ve arrived and show the world that I’m here to become one of the big names,” Barcelo told MMA Fighting ahead of UFC Boise.
The son of Larte Barcelos, a red and black belt in jiu-jitsu, Barcelos was surrounded by MMA royalty since making his first steps into the sport. Over the past few years, Barcelos had the opportunity to help the likes of Jose Aldo and Glover Teixeira prepare for their UFC fights and go to big-time events with them. Watching their success in the UFC cage helped him stay focused, he says.
“It’s completely different, I was there as a fan,” Barcelos said. “I was only starting as a fighter. I dreamed about it, but it still was too far from me. I’m in there now. I have the weight of the debut, being in a bigger stage, but I won’t let that bother me.
”Being in the biggest promotion of the world and fighting the best was my dream,” he continued. “They helped me get here and helped me overcome the tough moments I went through. My UFC career is just getting started. It’s a unique opportunity, so I won’t let this opportunity go away. I’ll definitely go for the finish.”
Barcelos’ first opponent in the Octagon is returning veteran Holobaugh, who had a chance to compete in the UFC back in 2013 then earned another opportunity after capturing the Titan FC title against Gesias Cavalcante in 2017 and competing on the Contender Series.
“There’s no easy fight in the UFC,” Barcelos said. “I’m taking on a tough guy, a former champion in other promotions, who beat guys like Gesias and others, so I’m fighting someone as good as me. Fighting him and winning the fight will prove I belong. I want the toughest opponents so I can test myself. I have the utmost respect for my opponent, but I’m going there to win.
”He’s a complete fighter, based on what my father and Pedro Rizzo looked up, but I’ll impose my game. I’ll be way faster, my speed and explosiveness, and I think I can surprise him. He’s really tough, but it’s a fight. Anything can happen in there. I’m really confident and I’m going there to win.”
Holobaugh vs. Barcelos will take place at 145 pounds, but that’s not where the Brazilian plans to make his career going forward.
“I’ve been fighting in the U.S. for a while, was a champion at RFA, but I’ve been fighting guys that are too big and heavy for 145,” Barcelos said. “We decided to make a test cut to 135 and it was very successful. I even had to hold weight or I would be lighter in this camp.
“I will fight at 145 now, but my goal is to go to 135 and become a top contender in that division. It will be something new for me. If I do well at 135, maybe I’ll fight the best until the day I can fight for the belt.”