Former UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao is making his debut in the UFC’s featherweight division on Saturday night, taking on Jeremy Stephens in his first fight since a second loss to T.J. Dillashaw last summer.
The 29-year-old contends that the cut down to 135 lbs. was simply too great a burden to have him fighting at his best, so he’s comfortable perhaps taking a longer road back to title contention without needing to drain himself so significantly.
“We came to the conclusion that I was cutting too much weight and wasn’t recovering 100 percent,” Barao said in an interview with Guilherme Cruz at MMAFighting.com. “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.
“…[A move back down] 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. 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.”
Penick’s Analysis: This is the right approach for Barao and his team. If he can’t compete at his best because of issues with that cut, then continuing to fight at that weight class leaves him susceptible to what happened against Dillashaw twice. He can still beat fighters at bantamweight, but if he’s going to be a more effective, more dangerous, simply better fighter by competing without that cut, then let’s see what he can do at 145 lbs.
[Photo (c) Jason Silva via USA Today Sports]
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