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Dan Ige describes his perfect win over Edson Barboza: ‘I love breaking guys and taking away their soul’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dan Ige was staying ready to fight just in case the UFC called and that paid off when an offer came through to welcome Edson Barboza to the featherweight division.

After winning his past five fights in a row, Ige hoped that he would get a ranked opponent next but in a way he got an even better opportunity after learning that the veteran lightweight contender would be dropping down to 145 pounds.

Throughout his UFC career, Barboza has faced the best of the best with names on his resume like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Anthony Pettis and many more. Barboza has been ranked at lightweight for several years and even though there’s not a number next to his name as he debuts in a new division, Ige believes this is an even bigger fight than facing many of the athletes currently occupying spots in the top 15.

“These guys get into the rankings and they only want to fight the people above them,” Ige said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I understand because we want to climb the ladder. We want to get to the top and we want to get to the title. But with a guy like Edson, this is more than just the rankings.

“Obviously, yes the guy has been ranked in the top 10 or top five at lightweight for almost the last 10 years. This guy’s a phenom. For me to go out and beat a guy like Edson, even though he’s not ranked in the featherweight division, it raises my value. I’m just overall super excited. In order to become a legend, you’ve got to beat a legend. Edson’s a legend. I can’t wait to go out and shock the world.”

For all the highlight reel wins that Barboza has racked up over the years, he’s also suffered his fair share of losses and in those defeats there have been some similar strategies employed against him.

Just because he knows how past fighters have bested Barboza doesn’t mean Ige thinks that this will just be an easy day at the office for him.

“Everybody’s got a pattern,” Ige explained. “You could probably watch some of my fights and see some of the same things I do multiple times. People are creatures of habit. We have patterns that we’re comfortable with. Same with a guy like Edson. There is a blue print out there to beat him.

“Will I follow the exact blue print to beat him? I don’t know. Because you never know until you get in there. We can visualize it but you have to wait until you get in there to see things and react. You can’t think about it. You just have to see and react. I feel like I’m really good at that.”

As he’s prepared for the fight against Barboza this weekend, Ige has identified what he believes will be a path to victory but he also knows how one wrong turn could spell his doom.

“He’s a dangerous mother-effer and I can’t give him any space,” Ige said with a laugh. “If I give him any space, he’s going to take advantage of it. He’s going to try to kick my legs. He’s going to try to kick my body. He’s going to try to kick me in the head, spinning wheel kick me. But that’s if I give him space.

“But will I give him space? No. Because I have to go implement my game plan. I can’t worry about what he’s going to do. I’m going to be very smart with my range and he can fight going backwards, too, but I have to make it into a dog fight. We’ve seen him break before.”

Because Barboza has wilted under the pressure in the past, Ige knows it can happen again — and he couldn’t imagine a better way for this fight to play out.

“If I see someone break, that feeds me so much,” Ige said. “Because I love breaking guys and taking away their soul. That’s the most rewarding thing for me in a fight. It’s nice to get a big knockout and starch a dude but it’s even more rewarding to go out there and just take away a guy’s morale. Take away a guy’s soul.

“That’s obviously what I have to try to do with Edson. We’ve seen it before with guys like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] or guys like Kevin Lee, who go out there and put a crazy amount of pressure game on him.”

If all goes well, Ige hopes to cement himself as a featherweight to watch in 2020 and beyond while stealing some of the thunder Barboza is bringing with him to the division.

“A guy like Edson, he’s been there. He’s fought the best in the world,” Ige said. “He’s been in there with the best. He’s at the top. He has a crazy highlight reel.

“Everybody knows who Edson Barboza is. It’s a great opportunity. People will know who I am after this fight.”

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