Earlier this year, former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao made his highly anticipated featherweight debut in the UFC as he squared off against Jeremy ‘Lil Heathen’ Stephens. Barao was going up in weight with the intentions of getting a fresh start after suffering two defeats at the hands of UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
Unfortunately for Barao, his featherweight debut didn’t go as planned. While he was able to make the featherweight limit of 145 pounds, he ultimately ended up dropping a unanimous decision to Stephens at ‘UFC Fight Night: 88’.
Now, ahead of his second featherweight scrap tonight in Brasilia, Brazil, Barao is confident in his ability to trade with featherweights, despite the fact that he’s generally considered to be small compared to the other UFC featherweights.
He spoke to MMAJunkie:
“I believe I fought (Stephens) toe-to-toe, like everyone saw, and I can fight anyone, including the bigger guys. I’m not scared of toughness. I’m relaxed, I’m well-prepared, I’m training everything, in all areas, and I will certainly do my best.”
“Fighting in Brazil is totally different, the energy,” Barao said. “I fought in Sao Paulo (UFC Fight Night 58, against Mitch Gagnon) and I could hear the crowd chanting ‘The champion is back,’ and I was so happy. I had goosebumps. I felt like crying walking out.”
“I’ve always gone in there to do my best and do my job,” Barao said. “I intend to go in there very happy and let my game flow.”
Barao’s opponent for tonight, Phillipe Nover is looking to bounce back from the first loss of his UFC career, which came at the hands of Zubaira Tukhugov back in December of 2015. With a win over Barao, Nover could likely cement his place at the top of the UFC’s featherweight division with a win over former bantamweight champion Renan Barao.