If you want to be the best, train with the best.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season nine winner Ross Pearson stands behind that statement 100-percent.
"The Real Deal" has spent considerable time training alongside champions in America as he prepares for one of the toughest tests of his young MMA career against flashy upstart striker, Edson Barboza, at UFC 134 in Brazil.
And this isn't the first time.
Pearson trained alongside Frankie Edgar in New Jersey before his ill-fated 2010 match-up against Cole Miller, a fight in which he suffered a freak knee injury before being stopped in the second round.
Which champ did he train with this time out?
"I knew I needed to base my camp in the States, and I've been training with guys like Dominick, Brandon Vera and Phil Davis day in, day out and really come on. I needed to improve my game and I want to become a better fighter than what I already was, so I've been out at MMA Alliance training with the best. The standard is right up there at the top and it's bringing my game on so much. Everyone back home in England - my family, friends, even my Rough House teammates - said that if I want to evolve and become a world champion in the sport, I have to go out here and train with the best. There was nothing but positive vibes coming from people back home, telling me I was doing the right thing coming out here. I had sorta become a big fish in a little pond training in England, where out here, I'm just a little fish in a very big pond."
Pearson's opponent, Edson Barboza, is an incredibly gifted stand-up artist, perhaps the best in the UFC's deep 155-pound division. Training alongside an unorthodox striker like Cruz could give him just the boost he needs to earn a victory come Saturday night (August 27, 2011).
"Barboza does a lot of things I like to do, he's a great puncher and he mixes his punches and kicks very well. But I am not scared of him at all. I am going to put it on him from the very first second of the fight and pressure him. He likes to kick from a distance, he's not going to do that to me. Not happening... I'm expecting a total war, but that's the way I like it."
Pearson has shown considerable promise in his Octagon career thus far, especially in his defining UFC victory against current top lightweight contender Dennis Siver last year. But will his aggressive pressure-driven style be enough?
Barboza is going to be an entirely different animal and has shown a prowess for kicks and punches that may be unmatched. "The Real Deal" is certainly going to have his hands full as he steps onto the Brazilian's home turf.
What do you think, Maniacs?
Will his work with champion Dominick Cruz be enough to put Pearson over the top come Saturday night? Or will he encounter another speed bump on his road to the top of the lightweight division?