Barboza took to social media in March 2020 to say it was “time to move on.” A fight with Dan Ige was then booked for May 16, and he said “you want to change when you’re not satisfied where you are.”
The Brazilian veteran ended up losing a controversial decision to Ige in Jacksonville, Fla., and reiterated later that year—following a win over Makwan Amirkhani in October, that he wanted to fight the last bout of his contract and test the market.
Barboza’s back and forth with the UFC on his status in the company ended this past February, when he signed a new multi-fight deal with the promotion.
“My head is more relaxed than ever,” Barboza said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Thank God we were able to get a deal with the UFC. I’m very happy, I believe the UFC is happy as well, so I just have to go there and show what I’ve always showed and prove the UFC I’m worth that, that I really deserve the number they are paying me.
“That has gotten me more motivated than ever because now I know that, more than ever, I have to go there and do a good job because we secured a pretty cool deal that has gotten both of us satisfied. That has left me very motivated.”
Besides the bump in pay he has already secured, Barboza wants to be more active in the octagon going forward.
“I hope so. Honestly, I hope so,” said Barboza, who only fought twice a year since 2016, scoring lightweight wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, Beneil Dariush and Dan Hooker before moving down to featherweight in 2020.
“It all depends on the last fight, right? If I go there and do a good job and win a cool fight, everybody will be thinking about the next one already, and that’s how another fight comes quickly.”
The American Top Team striker is “ready to fight three fights this year” and aims to be on a four-fight winning streak by the time 2022 starts, getting him closer to a shot at the 145-pound championship.
“That’s the goal,” Barboza said.
Coming off an impressive performance against Amirkhani in Abu Dhabi, Barboza feels “thrilled” to be “testing myself against the best in the world” in the octagon, such as No. 9-ranked Shane Burgos at UFC 262.
“I was able to score two or three knockdowns in my last fight, but I always attack to end the fight,” he said. “Every strike I land is to get the finish as quickly as possible. I hope to hit him and end this fight as fast as possible. … I knew Amirkhani would shoot at my leg [for takedowns], and I don’t know about Shane. I do believe he will try to take me down in the end as they always try against me, but it’s a MMA fight and you have to be ready for anything.”