Ellis Badr Barboza got his golden ticket to the big stage, and on December 8, he’ll make his U.S. primetime debut at ONE Fight Night 17: Kryklia vs. Roberts on Prime Video.
The 23-year-old Brit will take on Thai star Thongpoon PK Saenchai in a 120-pound catchweight Muay Thai contest in Bangkok, and although it’s a big jump up, he feels ready to show the global fan base what he’s all about.
The man known as “El Jefe” isn’t taking the opportunity lightly, but more than anything else, he’s eager to start climbing the ladder among the world’s elite strikers.
“I’m so excited. But, surprisingly, it just feels very normal. Mentally, I’ve been here so many times, thinking about it in my head, and now it’s here. I’m very excited to perform. I know it’s a step up, but I’m excited to prove myself on this stage.
“It’s everything I’ve dreamt of. Since before the lockdown. Since I was really young. So, it’s mad that we’re now here. This is where the real hard work will be.”
As the United Kingdom’s top-ranked athlete in his weight class and a WBC European and International Muay Thai Champion, the Birmingham native has already established a strong reputation regionally – but he knows ONE Championship presents him with a blank slate.
The best of the best compete in the world’s largest martial arts organization, so Barboza is prepared to leave his accolades in the past as he begins a new journey.
The Fairtex Training Center product said:
“To me, [the other titles] feel like nothing. I feel like the bottom of the pile. Not in my ability, but with the things I have to prove. I mean, sure, I’m number one in the UK, but what does that really mean?
“The best in the world are here in ONE Championship. I don’t let that success get to my head. For me, it’s like, ‘OK, now I’ve got someone real tough in front of me. I need to stay humble and make sure I’m ready for this.’
“I’ve always felt like I belong here, so now, I have to cement it.”
Barboza Prepared To Deal With Early Pressure From Thongpoon
Ellis Badr Barboza’s upcoming opponent, Thongpoon PK Saenchai, has looked phenomenal since debuting in the ONE Friday Fights event series this past March.
The Thai slugger won his first two matches by knockout in a combined 44 seconds before earning a tough decision win over Yangdam Jitmuangnon to earn a six-figure ONE contract.
Barboza knows Thongpoon is a strong competitor, but he believes the aggressive PK Saenchai Muaythaigym representative has some blind spots that can be exposed:
“I’ll say his strength is his first minute. His boxing is good, for sure. His left hand is strong, as is his aggression, his spirit, his heart. But that is something that doesn’t always win fights. It can, but there are definitely holes in his game.
“The people he’s fought in ONE, he knocked them out in the first round, so we haven’t yet had the chance to see these holes opened. I thought Yangdam managed the best against him. But I definitely think there’s gaps to be exploited within this guy.”
Thongpoon’s blistering early pace and powerful punching can be overwhelming for some opponents, but the Englishman is not fazed by the potential blitz coming his way.
Instead, Barboza is confident that he has the necessary grit and skill to overcome it. He plans to get through the early onslaught before turning up the heat on his foe.
“El Jefe” added:
“For Thongpoon, I think my strength is going to be my kicking. He can’t kick like me, for sure. He hasn’t got the distance management like me. He’s good in one distance, which is close range, whereas I can fight in long and close and mix in different fakes and different shots. I think I’m a lot more versatile than him.
“I think I’ll get the stoppage in the second round. I think he’ll have a strong first round unless I find a nice little shot there. I think I’ll weather [his offense] because I want it more than he realizes. I ain’t gonna just fall over in the first round.
“I’ll break his spirit, and that’s when we find the magic.”