Edson Barboza Junior, also known as Juninho , threw his first punch when he was only eight years old. Coming from a humble family in the town of Nova Friburgo, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, little Junior began training at a neighborhood samba school that taught Muay Thai to needy children.
Edson excelled in his training and won his first fight while still only eight. Within a few years, he had already started to collect trophies and titles in Muay Thai competitions. He had his first professional fight at the age of 16, and by 19, he was determined to be the best Muay Thai fighter in Brazil in the weight class up to 70kgs. With 28 fights and 25 wins, Edson did not expect that this successful career could end so short, but he was faced with the decision to abandon a career in Muay Thai, or to follow a new path. Muay Thai had not been a popular sport in Brazil at that time, so it was difficult for an athlete to find sponsors. Because Edson had already defeated the best fighters in Brazil, it became increasingly difficult for him to find good opponents. Faced with the expensive option of going abroad in search of new fights (such as K1 in Japan) Edson was almost ready to give up fighting when his manager Alex Davis recommended a solution, move to Mixed Martial Arts.
MMA was expanding at the time and Alex Davis knew of a gym in the United States that was interested in hiring a Muay Thai instructor who was also an MMA fighter. On December 5, 2009, he made a decision that changed his life. After many long talks with his Muay Thai master Anderson Franca, Barboza decided to leave for the United States to become an MMA fighter.
Unable to speak English, with only a small suitcase, but with great enthusiasm and many dreams, Edson Barboza landed in Miami and immediately began training for his MMA debut. Given his skill as a striker, the result was as expected and Edson knocked out his first opponent. He dedicated this first win as the first step in his new journey. “I was doing as many fights as I could, and started teaching many private lessons because I wanted to bring my girlfriend to the U.S. to be with me. So I woke up every day at 5 o’clock in the morning to train, teach classes, and fight in order to get the money we needed to bring my girlfriend here. After a year, I got it. Today, I’ve been in U.S. for 5 years, and she has been here with me for 4 years. Now she works for me in support of my professional career. Nothing is easy, but I don’t have anything to complain about. I’ve found a new family here in America, with amazing friends and wonderful people. God has really blessed me,” recalls Barboza.
Over the next few years, Edson accrued a perfect record of 6 wins in 6 fights (with 5 coming by knockout) and caught the eye of Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC is the biggest MMA event in the world and Barboza was signed to fight in the world famous Octagon. In his UFC debut, Barboza gained his first win by knockout, and year after year has been writing his history in the UFC. In 2012, Edson got the first knockout by spinning wheel kick over Terry Etim at UFC 142. This knockout has been recognized as the third most spectacular knockout in the history of UFC. Edson continues to achieve historic victories by earning the UFC’s only technical knockouts by leg kicks.
2012 brought many changes for Edson. He moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to open the Valor Martial Arts gym with friend and fellow Brazilian MMA fighter Marlon Moraes. Edson also began training with “Team Iron Horse” that includes former UFC World Champion Frankie Edgar, boxing coach extraordinaire Mark Henry, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master Ricardo Almeida. Edson’s future has never looked brighter, and he is excited about the opportunities and challenges that the future will bring.