Earlier this week former UFC interim champion, Renan Barão, achieved his ultimate goal of becoming an undisputed UFC champion. But getting crowned the champ never came around the way the Brazilian ever imagined.
Barão had been expecting to take on the 135lb. champ, Dominick Cruz, when he returned from injury to unify the two's bantamweight titles. Unfortunately for Cruz he couldn't return in time and was stripped of his UFC title.
Cruz first became injured while coaching TUF 15 against Urijah Faber, suffering a torn ACL. Subsequently the UFC booked Barão vs. Faber for the interim championship.
Barão went on to win the interim title and has since defended it twice, with dominant finishes over Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 and Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. Meanwhile Cruz had to undergo more treatment on his knee, forcing the UFC to give him a deadline before he was stripped of his title.
But as we know, Cruz suffered another injury and the long awaited fight was cancelled. Barão will now face off against Faber again, but this time for the UFC's top prize. Barão spoke recently to MMAjunkie.com and said he was shocked to hear about Cruz because he had been waiting to fight him for such a long time.
“It was surprising, because everybody was waiting for Cruz to come back to the Octagon. As it was for the MMA fans, it was surprising for me, too. I was waiting for this fight since I was in the WEC. When I finally had the chance, he got injured again. So that shocked me.”
Barão said he was initially upset that he never got the chance to beat the Cruz. However, the Brazillian says he's always felt like the champion and doesn't think he needs to beat Cruz to prove that.
“I got sad about Cruz’s injury. But I’m happy because I always wanted to be the champion,” he said. “That was my goal since I entered the UFC. So I don’t care if I’m not going to fight Cruz anymore because I always felt like I was the champion. I don’t need to beat him to be the champion. I’m the kind of fighter who doesn’t ask for opponents. I always felt like I was the champion. I know that’s the fight everyone wanted to see, but he’s injured and there’s nothing I can do.”
Now Barão will have to focus on Faber, who has been on a tear since losing to the champ back in July 2012. Since the loss Faber has gone an impressive 4-0 at 135lbs, with three finishes. In his last fight Faber destroyed Barão's previous opponent McDonald, dropping him and then submitting him in the second round. Barão thinks Faber has improved a lot since there last meeting.
“Faber deserves to be the next opponent. He’s one of the toughest guys in the division. I already fought him, but he gets better and better. I’m not surprised to see him, and I’m happy I’m going to fight him and I want to beat him again.”
“I think he’s improved in his standup fighting. He’s very resilient and a tough guy. He can take punches and he’s difficult to knock out. He looked great in his last fight. But if I had to say something he’s improved on, I’d say his standup."
Faber has definitely improved in his striking, this was on display in his last fight as he picked apart McDonald. "The California Kid" recently said he's changing his tactics next time around, saying he will try to make the next fight more intense and dirty. Barão says he's ready for anything Faber has to offer.
“For sure, he’ll come with a different strategy. But I’m ready for anything. I’m ready for the standup, I’m ready for the ground. I’m training hard for this, so I don’t care (where he wants it to go).”
Faber has certainly looked impressive since he last lost to Barão. Personally, I don't feel like he has improved enough to beat Barão a second time round but I could be wrong. How do you see Barão vs. Faber 2 playing out?