clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao plans on staying in the featherweight division, for now

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The downfall of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight king Renan Barao is a tricky one.

At one point the 29-year-old had won 22-straight mixed martial arts (MMA) fights en route to claiming the 135-pound UFC throne, defending it three times, and then looking like one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Of course, that was until an unsuspected evolution by T.J. Dillashaw resulted in Barao tasting a TKO defeat at UFC 173.

After that loss to "The Viper," The Brazilian never truly returned to form. He did submit Mitch Gagnon at UFC Fight Night 58, but looked worse in his rematch with Dillashaw at UFC on FOX 16 than he did in their first meeting. A move up to Featherweight was really the only logical move left for Barao to make, especially considering he depleted himself to get down to 135 pounds.

Now on the cusp of making his 145-pound debut this Sunday (May 29, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 88 live on FOX Sports 1 against the always game Jeremy Stephens, Barao is looking at a life of easier weight cuts, consistent Octagon effectiveness, and a potential lengthy stay at his new home.

"We came to the conclusion that I was cutting too much weight and wasn’t recovering 100 percent," said Barao in a recent interview with MMA Fighting. "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."

While Barao also hinted at a possible return to the Bantamweight division in the future, his eyes are set on the task at hand.

"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," added Barao. "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."

The Brazilian will have a speed advantage over almost every top fighter in the 145-pound division, but he's going to find it difficult to fend off some of the more powerful punchers. Stephens represents that risk to the highest degree.

UFC Fight Night 88 will be headlined by a Bantamweight clash between undefeated Brazilian striker Thomas Almeida and Team Alpha Male boxer Cody Garbrandt.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania