Former champ Renan Barao meets Mitch Gagnon in Sao Paulo co-main event

Renan Barao (left) takes on Mitch Gagnon at UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1 on Dec. 20 in Brazil.

Jeff Bottari/Nick Laham

Renan Barao will indeed have to work his way back up the ladder.

The former UFC bantamweight champion will meet Mitch Gagnon at UFC Fight Night on Dec. 20 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the UFC announced on Twitter on Wednesday night. The card will air live on FOX Sports 1. A UFC official confirmed with FOX Sports that the bout would be the co-main event.

Barao (32-2, 1 NC) had not lost in more than 30 fights before losing the bantamweight title to T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173 in May. The Brazilian was set for a rematch with Dillashaw at UFC 177 in August, but slipped in the bath while cutting weight and hit his head the day before the bout. Barao had to pull out and UFC president Dana White said he would not get a title rematch immediately after due to the weight-cutting mishap.

Barao, 27, remains ranked No. 1 among bantamweight contenders. He beat Urijah Faber for the interim bantamweight title in 2012 and defended the title three times. In between, the interim label came off when former champion Dominick Cruz was out of action three years because of injuries. Barao was undefeated since 2005, when he was just 18 years old, prior to the Dillashaw loss.

Gagnon (12-2) will come in as a sizeable underdog. The Canadian has won four in a row, including a first-round submission victory over Roman Salazar earlier this month in Halifax. He’s ranked No. 15 among UFC bantamweight contenders, but has never fought anyone of Barao’s caliber. Gagnon, 30, is a grappling specialist with good wrestling, so he could very well give Barao a run for his money.

UFC Fight Night in Sao Paulo is headlined by a middleweight contender bout between Lyoto Machida and C.B. Dollaway.