Renan Barao: 'Urijah Faber has evolved a lot since our last fight'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Renan Barao’s path will cross with Urijah Faber’s once again.

Barao, who dominated Faber at UFC 149 to become the UFC interim bantamweight champion, defended the title twice. The Brazilian was finally set to meet Dominick Cruz, the undisputed champion, inside the Octagon. However, another injury forced a change of plans.

Cruz is not the 135-pound champion anymore, and Barao was crowned the new undisputed bantamweight kingpin. Barao, undefeated over the last 32 professional MMA fights, will still headline the UFC 169 card on Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J., now in a five-round rematch with Faber.

"I believe that choosing Faber to fight me was a fair (decision)," Barao said. "He’s one of the best in my division and has evolved a lot since our last fight. He’s going to do his best on fight night, so will I."

With a 8-0 record under the Zuffa banner, which includes five stoppage victories, Barao doesn’t needed Cruz to get injured to feel he was the "real" undisputed champion.

"I was surprised with the news that Dominick Cruz got hurt again, but I always felt I was the undisputed bantamweight champion," he said. "He hasn’t fought for a long time and I have defended my belt.

"I'm sad that he’s injured, I was training and hoping for this battle since WEC. I hope that he recovers soon, but I don’t feel the need to fight him to prove I’m the (real) champion."

Faber is 4-0 since losing to Barao, scoring submission victories over the likes of Michael McDonald and Scott Jorgensen, and the Brazilian knows that he won’t be an easy opponent at UFC 169.

"I have to set a new strategy with my coaches because Faber’s style is different (from Cruz’s)," he said. "He’s slower, but he’s really tough and handles too much punishment standing. He has evolved a lot in this aspect since our last fight, but I’m prepared for anything. The most important is to go there and do a good show for the fans."

Despite being a champion in a heavier weight class, Jose Aldo’s featherweight title fight with Ricardo Lamas will serve as the co-main event of UFC 169, with Barao vs. Faber headlining the card.

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