Edson Barboza isn't afraid to give credit where credit is due.
As he prepares for his UFC Fight Night 128 main event showdown against Kevin Lee in Atlantic City, N.J. this weekend, Barboza is looking to bounce back from a lopsided loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last fight from UFC 219 this past December.
Barborza was confident that his striking could stop Nurmagomedov's wrestling, but the fight didn't play out that way and he ended the night with a defeat on his record.
“I was very upset about the fight,” Barboza said when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I was so mad because I was completely dominated by Khabib. Sometimes something happens and it's not too good.
“Right now, I'm back to the gym, I'm fixing some stuff and I promise and I guarantee that's not going to happen again. I work very, very hard, I feel better than ever. I'm more excited than ever because of that loss.”
Following that fight with Barboza, Nurmagomedov went on to become undisputed lightweight champion with a win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. While it wasn't the opponent he was supposed to face, Nurmagomedov still got the job done with a dominant win over a late-notice replacement in Iaquinta.
Now Nurmagomedov stands alone atop the lightweight division after both Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson were stripped of their titles.
While Barboza takes nothing away from Nurmagomedov's win over him much less his victory against Iaquinta, he's still not ready to rate him as the best lightweight in the world.
That's not sour grapes talking, but rather Barboza saying that it's tough to call anybody “the best” in the lightweight division, which is filled with killers from the top with Nurmagomedov as champion all the way to the bottom of the rankings.
“That's crazy. It's tough to say who is the best,” Barboza said. “Sometimes the guy who's the best isn't the guy who wins that night and he loses. It's so hard for me to say one guy is the best. I feel like if you see the top five guys in the UFC, you rank the top five guys, all those guys their level is so high.
“The level is so high, I believe Khabib could lose to anybody in the top 10 in the lightweight division. It's so hard to say this guy's the best or this guy is the worst. The guys in the top 10 of the UFC, their level is so high, so it's all very close.”
All Barboza knows is that the loss to Nurmagomedov isn't going to deter him from his longterm goal to become champion and hopefully that means he'll clash with the Russian wrecking machine at some point in the future.
In fact, Barboza would love the chance to avenge all of his career losses, so that means he might run into Nurmagomedov or even former interim champion Tony Ferguson before his career is finished.
“Oh yes, definitely, for sure,” Barboza said about a rematch with Nurmagomedov. “100 percent, I really believe I'll see Khabib and Ferguson in the future.”