Brazil's Nova Uniao and California's Team Alpha Male have produced some of the best lighter weight fighters in mixed martial arts. Two of their top performers -- Brazilian Renan Barao and Californian Urijah Faber -- are headlining UFC 149 on July 21. But it's not the first time the camps have paired off for divisional bragging rights. It happened as recently as April 2010, when Nova Uniao's dynamic Jose Aldo beat Faber in a featherweight title fight.
In that bout, Aldo went the distance with Faber and presumably learned plenty about his style and tendencies in the process. So it doesn't come as a surprise when Barao says he's leaned on his teammate for some advice in crafting a game plan for Faber.
"We had an excellent camp down here, we have an excellent strategy and obviously we benefitted from Aldo’s input," he said through an interpreter during a Thursday teleconference. "Aldo knows how Urijah fights, and he was also able to help us devise our strategy going in to make this camp, so thank God we had an excellent camp and we’ll be very ready for this fight."
Faber, however, says he stands both prepared for Barao's fighting prowess, and unconcerned about Aldo's advice. Originally scheduled to face bitter rival Dominick Cruz, he was forced to settle for the dangerous but still somewhat unknown Barao, who is the author of one of the longest unbeaten stretches in MMA history. Barao hasn't lost since his very first pro fight back in April 2005. Since then, he's fought 29 times, with 28 wins and one no contest.
In UFC and WEC fights, he's gone a perfect 5-0 with three finishes, making him the obvious replacement when Cruz went down. And even though Faber acknowledged that he enjoys Barao's aggressive style, he remains unfazed by the role of former opponent Aldo in Barao's camp. That was made abundantly clear when he was asked if Aldo's insight offered Barao any advantage.
"Is he going to bring Jose in there to help fight me? If so, then yes, but we’re all individuals," he said. "I feel like Renan, although he has a lot of similarities to Jose Aldo, he is a very different fighter. They're different sized fighters. They're different skill sets. It's a different fight. Same with me and my camp.
"I don't think that having Aldo’s input is going to change too much for me," he continued. "He’s probably going to tell him to kick me in the leg, but I’m sure Barao was planning to kick me in the leg anyway. I'm stoked for a great fight. I really like the camp I’m fighting against. It's kind of a fight pitting the two best light-weight camps in the world against each other, so I think we'll take extra pride in that for sure."
After a long run as a headliner in both the WEC and UFC, Faber is a well-known commodity in the MMA game, but Barao, who has fought on only two UFC main cards, remains far less known. On Thursday's conference call, it took over 20 minutes for him to field his first question, and even then, he had little to say except that he'd introduce or re-introduce himself to the masses in the octagon, presumably at Faber's expense.
After a sustained history of winning, Barao is considered a slight favorite to continue that long unbeaten run. But Faber believes he's got him well scouted, and that even an assist from Aldo won't be enough to overcome him.
"I think probably the thing he has going for him is just the confidence of coming off the 29 wins," he said. "He's human just like anyone else. That long streak is going to come to an end, and I'm the one to do it."