Imagine traveling around town with a guy who you’re going to punch in the face in five weeks.
Sounds odd, but that was the case on Tuesday, when UFC fighters Kevin Lee and Edson Barboza hit a bunch of Philly spots to talk about their April 21st headlining bout at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Maybe the art of promotion in combat sports isn’t dead after all.
For Barboza, this will be his third fight in AC. He beat Evan Dunham there in 2014 at Revel Casino, the last time the UFC went to South Jersey. The Brazilian lightweight also won a pair of fights in Atlantic City back in 2010 when he was fighting for the Ring of Combat promotion. Barboza relocated to New Jersey a few years ago and trains with Toms River native Frankie Edgar and Philadelphia’s Eddie Alvarez.
Lee is a Detroit fighter who made his UFC debut in Newark but has yet to fight in our region.
It’s a interesting matchup at 155 pounds between a pair of guys coming off tough losses to elite opponents. Lee fought for the interim lightweight title in October but was bested by Tony Ferguson with a third round triangle choke. Barboza was battered by the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov back in December.
Khabib and Ferguson meet on April 7th in Brooklyn for the title that Conor McGregor won in 2016, then later vacated.
This fight should help sort out the pecking behind Ferguson and Khabib. Lee had the opportunity to fight Alvarez, but wanted Barboza instead. Eddie is three months removed from an excellent win against the previously unbeaten Justin Gaethje.
Lee and Barboza rang the bell at the Sixers game last night and were nice enough to speak for a few minutes before tip-off: