Renan Barao unwilling to address title situation ahead of current fight
Renan Barao would probably rather forget most of 2014 ever happened.
The former bantamweight champion started out the year just fine when he dispatched of Urijah Faber for the second time in just over three minutes to retain his title for the third time. Then came his next defense at UFC 173 when he took on T.J. Dillashaw in a matchup no one really expected to happen.
Dillashaw was one fight removed from a loss to Raphael Assuncao and really hadn't put together the kind of resume to make anyone believe he was a legitmate threat to Barao's reign at the top.
Four rounds and some change later, Dillashaw was clamping down on Barao's head with a barrage of punches as the referee dragged the former Ultimate Fighter runner-up off before declaring him the new bantamweight champion of the world.
Three months later Barao was right back in front of Dillashaw after being granted an immediate rematch. The first fight had to be a fluke, right?
Barao never got the chance to find out because a weight cutting disaster left him passed out in a hotel bathroom before being rushed to the emergency room where he was pulled from the rematch just 24-hours away from fighting.
The screw up in his weight cut nearly cost the UFC a show and it definitely cost the bantamweight division one of the biggest marquee matchups of all time so Barao knew there was going to be some punishment coming his way. Instead of facing Dillashaw next or even a top contender, Barao got relegated to a co-main event slot against a relative unknown named Mitch Gagnon this weekend in Brazil.
It's a big step down from headlining pay-per-views and being called the best bantamweight in the world, but Barao holds no ill will towards the UFC for the decision. He knows everything that's happened lately falls squarely on his own shoulders.
"I was definitely very upset when that all happened, but it's something that happened. It's in the past. I try to look forward and think of the good memories and move forward from there," Barao told FOX Sports from Brazil.
"I definitely understand. I'm okay with it. I just want to go and fight that's what I love to do. I just want to fight."
All eyes will be on Barao this Friday when he makes his next weight cut for the fight with Gagnon. Prior to blacking out during his preparation for UFC 177, Barao was always known to cut a lot of weight for all of his fights, which led to some speculation that he may eventually move up to featherweight before his career was over.
As disappointed as he was with what happened back in August, Barao never waivered from wanting to be a bantamweight. With his next fight just a few days away, Barao is confident the scales will not be his biggest enemy this time around.
"I feel very well, I'm very focused and very well prepared. I'm ready for this fight week," Barao said.
"I came in lighter this time, much more regulated. I feel like it's been much easier than past times to cut weight this week."
One of the best parts about this week for Barao has been fighting closer to home in Brazil. Since joining the UFC in 2011, Barao has fought in England twice and the rest of his fights have taken place in the United States.
With his training camp and home based in Brazil it means Barao travels no less than 10 to 15 hours for all of his fights and any fighter will tell you cutting weight after losing a day on an airplane is just brutal.
"It's a lot better to not have to be on the plane for 10 hours. It takes a lot from you," Barao said. "So I feel a lot better being closer to home."
While Barao has been cordial enough to answer questions about his weight cut and how he's feeling going into Saturday night, one thing he's just not willing to address is the title situation. Barao had to watch Joe Soto -- a first time UFC fighter -- take on Dillashaw back in August when he was ruled out of the fight after going unconscious during his weight cut. If that wasn't bad enough, Barao then had to watch former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz win in September and then get promised he was receiving the next crack at Dillashaw in 2015.
It means Barao will fight Gagnon this weekend with no guarantees whatsoever that he'll get a title shot. Chances are he'll end up fighting again even if he dispatches of the Canadian in mere seconds.
There's no way it's not a frustrating feeling but Barao has no choice but to grin and bear it until after the fight is over.