Wait, what? Didn’t he only fight once this year, a main event clash with Justin Gaethje in... Philadelphia?
Allow him to explain.
It all started mid-June, when Barboza was chatting with his longtime coach Anderson Franca about who could be his next opponent in the UFC. Barboza looked at the official lightweight ranking and imagined that Felder would be the name the company would throw at him.
Franca didn’t see any sense in that booking, but Barboza “felt” something. “Our first fight was great, he’s coming off a win, so I think that’s who they’ll offer,” he told his coach. Two weeks later, Barboza’s manager Alex Davis reached out with the news.
And that’s how things get interesting.
When Davis called to ask about a Felder rematch in Abu Dhabi, Barboza was… in Dubai. Not the real Dubai, but in a movie set built in California. Barboza was one of the MMA fighters signed to be part of “Mickey Kelley”, a movie drama starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Katrina Bowden and Dennis Quaid.
According to Deadline, the film “follows Mickey Kelley (Flanery), one of the first American black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, who gets pulled away from everything he loves and into an unsanctioned MMA tournament, where his dreams of providing for his family come to a halt with a split-second decision.”
Barboza, who goes by the name Marco Blaine in the movie, gives away a little spoiler: he’s “the bad guy” in the movie, and fights Flanery in Dubai.
“When Alex called me offering the rematch with Paul I said let’s do it and asked where we were going to fight, but he didn’t know,” Barboza said. “He called me minutes later and said Abu Dhabi, and I was like ‘holy sh*t, I’m in Abu Dhabi for a week filming a movie, and he had no idea what I was talking about [laughs].”
“It’s a crazy how this happened,” he continued. “Someone kept sending me messages on Instagram talking about a movie. They insisted so much that I showed that to my wife, and she showed to my manager, and then we found out that it was for real.”
The Brazilian fighter initially turned down the idea, but changed his mind when he found out that it was a mixed martial arts movie.
“I made the decision on Sunday night and two days later I was filming in California,” Barboza said. “It was such a cool experience, man. I won’t ever forget that. This is a real movie about MMA, not one of those unrealistic movies. MMA fans will really enjoy it. Honestly, I don’t think that’ll be my only time filming. I’ll do that more often, I know that.
“(Flanery) understands martial arts, he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I remember seeing him moving around and thinking, ‘Wow, this guy really knows what he’s doing.’ That made my life a lot easier because he really knew what he had to do, so it was really cool.”
Back to Florida to prepare for a real fight now, the American Top Team lightweight says he’s getting “older and wiser, training less but with more quality now”. Entering the first rematch of his MMA career, Barboza doesn’t want to win the post-fight bonus for the best fight of the night like they did back in 2015 at UFC on FOX 16.
“I always tell my wife that I want a bonus, but not the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus because that usually means that both fighters are destroyed, that they killed themselves, and that sucks [laughs]. Funny thing is, I have eight ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses [laughs]. The first fight was a war, it was incredible, and it won’t be different this time.
“He was undefeated when we fought and I think he’s more experienced now, but so am I. Look at the guys I’ve fought since then. I fought Khabib (Nurmagomedov), I fought (Tony) Ferguson, I fought them all, the best in the world. I’m a better fighter than when I fought him the first time.”