When Edson Barboza stepped into the Octagon with Paul Felder a few weeks ago in Chicago, he did so with one purpose -- erase the memory of his last fight and remind the world just how good he can be on his best night.
Barboza traveled to Brazil for his previous matchup and lost a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson, which halted his two-fight win streak and put him back on the pile with the rest of the contenders in the lightweight division.
The loss rattled Barboza because he knew that was a lackluster performance and he didn't give his best that night. To gear up for the Felder fight, Barboza left his home in Florida and traveled to New Jersey for 11 weeks to train and prepare with former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and his coaches, Ricardo Almedia and Mark Henry.
Typically, Barboza only goes there for about a month toward the end of his camp, but this time around he knew to give his absolute best, he had to train with the best. The results showed when he faced Felder in the cage.
"I was so upset after the fight with Johnson because I know I didn't fight well," Barboza told FOX Sports. "I watched the fight and said, 'That's not the real Edson Barboza,' so I had to show everybody the 'real Edson Barboza' and that I'm even better than that. This is a new start to my career, I feel better than ever, I feel stronger than ever, I feel faster than ever. I'll keep learning everyday, and that's important.
"Now I'm really feeling the right way. I'm focused on training hard and getting better -- that's it."
On his best night, Barboza is not only on the same level as every other lightweight in the division, but he might also be the most entertaining fighter in the sport. Barboza has adopted a flashy style that includes an arsenal of spinning punches and kicks that look like something out of "The Matrix" and not the UFC playbook.
The funny thing about those moves is Barboza never practiced them before coming to the UFC. Despite a long career as a Muay Thai kickboxer, Barboza actually developed those kicks specifically for MMA, and it's worked out well for him.
"It's funny because in Muay Thai fights, I don't do these crazy moves a lot. No spinning and my Muay Thai game is very simple, like most Muay Thai guys," Barboza said. "A couple punches, elbows, leg kicks, and when I fight MMA, my Muay Thai coach says you should try this because most MMA guys don't do this.
"I started trying something different, a couple spins, heel kicks, and that's part of what I do now. I started training these kicks a lot. I think people like them. That's part of my game. If you want to see a good show, put Edson Barboza on the card."
All the flash and flair aside, Barboza is now focused on climbing up the divisional rankings and proving that he belongs among the elite lightweights in the UFC. He's fallen short in a couple of past matchups that may have allowed him to enter title shot conversations.
So Barboza is officially throwing down the gauntlet and challenging anybody ranked ahead of him in the division because he knows if he has his best night, there's not a fighter at 155 pounds who can beat him.
"I want to fight somebody in the top five. I'm No. 7, so I would love for the UFC to give me the opportunity to fight someone in front of me. Anybody, all the guys in front of me, I'm ready," Barboza said.
"I'm very realistic. I've fought all different kinds of guys in the UFC. I know if I step into the cage on my best night, I can beat anybody in the division. I know this. That's the new Edson Barboza. I know any guy in my division can be beat."