Saturday night Edson Barboza fights Team Alpha Male's Danny Castillo on the Fox Sports 1 televised portion of UFC on FOX 9, but as Kevin Iole details for Yahoo Sports, it will be far from his toughest fight.
Barboza was a premature baby, born at 28 weeks. His father had to make an agonizingly difficult decision. His wife's pregnancy was difficult, and the doctor came to him and said he could not save both the mother and the baby: Edson Barboza Sr. would have to make a choice.
He was faced with perhaps the most difficult decision a man must make, choosing between his wife, the love of his life, and his newly born son. He chose his wife.
And that's when Edson Barboza Jr. first showed signs of the fighter he would become: He, too, survived.
His family lived in a favela, a poor neighborhood in Brazil, crammed into a tiny home with one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen, and nothing else. The family did not own a table to sit at to eat their meals.
When he was eight, his parents sent him to a gym for poor children near his home, where Muay Thai classes were being given for free.
And like that, his future was determined.
"When I was 21 years old, I became the best Muay Thai fighter in Brazil, but I no longer had any sponsors, fights or money," Barboza said. "I had to decide to either get into MMA or stop fighting. My manager, Alex Davis, knew Joseph Mullings, an American guy who was interested in hiring a Muay Thai coach for his gym."
In January 2009, Barboza packed up everything he owned, which fit into a backpack, left his girlfriend (now his wife) Bruna Almeida behind and flew to Miami to start a new life.
Life is good now, and Barboza has assimilated into the American culture. But as his success increases, he hasn't forgotten where he came from.
He recently fulfilled a dream to buy a home for his parents, though he has yet to get back to Brazil to see it, and he's started a Muay Thai clinic that provides free instruction to children in Brazil...