Barboza nearing return, open to dropping weight to fight Aldo

Edson Barboza, who had surgery in May, hopes to return to the Octagon soon and could change divisions for the right opponent. Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Edson Barboza did everything he could to avoid shoulder surgery earlier this year. It reached a point at which physicians literally had to sit him down and say he had no choice in the matter.

In addition to just wanting to stay active, Barboza (19-4) hated the idea of surgery because he didn't want the UFC's lightweight division moving on, in any way, without him.

As it turns out, it really hasn't.

"Everything is stuck in the lightweight division," Barboza told ESPN. "Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor -- nobody is fighting. Everybody is out the next couple months. It's all the same as it was."

Barboza, 31, did undergo surgery in late May and should resume training soon. He's eyeing a return to the cage sometime in October.

As far as his next opponent, Barboza concedes there is no obvious option. The lightweight champion, McGregor, is scheduled to box Floyd Mayweather in August. And it appears likely Nurmagomedov and Ferguson will square off in the fall.

That doesn't leave much for Barboza, ESPN's No. 5-ranked lightweight in the world. In addition to those three names, the only lightweight ranked ahead of Barboza is former champion Eddie Alvarez, who Barboza trains with and says he wouldn't fight.

Riding a three-fight win streak, Barboza isn't thrilled by the idea of fighting a lower-ranked opponent. The predicament has him seriously considering dropping a weight class -- should the right opportunity emerge.

"I don't think that's a crazy idea," Barboza said. "I fought a couple Muay Thai fights at 145 pounds, a long time ago. I can make that weight.

"What about a superfight against [former featherweight champion] Jose Aldo? Imagine that. Two Brazilian strikers. Why not? That's a fight that would get me excited. He's the best 145-pounder ever. If the UFC offered that, I would definitely sit down and think about it."

Barboza also said he'll be watching next month's lightweight bout between Justin Gaethje (17-0) and Michael Johnson (17-11), which headlines the "Ultimate Fighter" finale on July 7 in Las Vegas.

Before agreeing to surgery, Barboza was looking at facing Gaethje on that date. He's predicting Johnson to win. Either way, the winner could be his next challenge.

Barboza understands the division is in a strange spot, but with an all-time UFC record of 13-4, he believes he's very deserving of a marquee spot when he returns.

And eventually, he does believe his path will cross with McGregor -- if the Irish champion intends to defend his title.

"My last two fights, I fought dangerous guys ranked behind me," Barboza said. "I won and it didn't move me anywhere. That's the problem. I have to get a deal that is good for me.

"Khabib and Ferguson want to fight each other, but is the fight soon? Can it happen before 2020? Go ahead, fight each other, and then I'm next in line. For me, this division doesn't have a real champion. Conor has fought one time in this division and then never defended his belt.

"If he comes back I do think we will fight. Conor doesn't like to fight wrestlers. I'm a striker. If I fight with him I'll say, 'Bro, don't even train wrestling. I will not try to take you down. This fight will happen on the feet.'"