Former bantamweight champion, Renan Barao will be making his return to the octagon, but it won’t be in the bantamweight division he once reigned over.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Barao said that he and his team had come to the conclusion that cutting to the division’s 135-pound weight requirement was “too much” for him.
“We came to the conclusion that I was cutting too much weight and wasn’t recovering 100 percent. After cutting weight, I felt it a lot. I always trained hard, did six rounds breathing normally, but after I cut weight I felt my muscles and body wear out, so I decided to move up to featherweight and cut less weight. I will have a better performance. I won’t cut too much weight and wear out as I did in all of my previous fights. It will be completely different.”
Instead, Renan Barao will be moving up to the 145-pound featherweight division, currently headed by the trash-talking Irishman, Conor McGregor, and soon to have either Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar as the interim champion.
Barao will be taking on Jeremy Stephens (24-12) at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs Garbrandt. Though Stephens has lost three of his last four fights, Barao is not underestimating his opponent.
“He’s a tough opponent, a top 10 featherweight, but I’m a UFC fighter and I will be ready to fight and do my best against anyone they put in front of me. Let’s do a great fight. I hope it’s a great show for the fans, an exciting fight for everyone.”
Renan Barao is notable for holding one of the longest no-loss streaks in MMA history. For almost ten years, the Natal, Brazil native never lost a fight and racked up 31 wins in a row with only one no-contest sullying his record. He defended the UFC bantamweight title four times in a row.
Barao’s streak came to an end, though, when he faced bantamweight, TJ Dillashaw. Though the favorite in the fight, Barao was dominated during much of their match at UFC 173 and eventually succumbed to Dillashaw’s head kicks and punches in the fifth round.
Barao claimed he was not “100 percent” for his fight with Dillashaw and vowed to bring the title back to Brazil at their rematch at UFC 177.
Unfortunately, Barao did not live up to his promise, falling to Dillashaw’s punches in the fourth round.
TJ Dillashaw is no longer the UFC bantamweight champion. That title is now held by Dominick Cruz, the man who had the title before Barao. Cruz was supposed to face Renan back in February 2014 to unify the interim bantamweight and bantamweight titles, but he pulled out due to a groin injury.
Despite his desire to move up to the featherweight division, Renan Barao is not ruling out the possibility of facing “The Dominator” for the 135-pound gold, but he still says it is conditional.
“It can happen, maybe one more fight and I’m close to the bantamweight title already, but like I said, the weight cut was too much and I wasn’t performing like I always did. There’s no point in being close to the bantamweight title if I’m not at my best. The goal is to fight at featherweight now and see what happens next.”
For now, though, Renan Barao is focused on one fight and one fight only: his upcoming fight against Stephens.
“I think about this fight only. After this fight, we will decide what to do. At first, our goal is to fight in this division.”
UFC Fight Night will go down this Sunday from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas Nevada.
[Image by Andre Penner/AP Images]