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Former champion Renan Barao changes diet for UFC Fight Night 58

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Renan Barao had the chance to regain his UFC title in August, but passed out while cutting weight for his UFC 177 main event with T.J. Dillashaw. Four months later, the Nova Uniao fighter returns to the Octagon against Mitch Gagnon, and he's implementing some changes for his pre-fight routine.

The former UFC bantamweight champion -- who was riding a 33-fight unbeaten streak until losing his belt to the heavy underdog Dillashaw at UFC 173 -- Barao has always struggled to make 135 pounds dead on the money for title fights. That's why he says he's decided to cut junk food from his menu.

"It’s never easy to make weight, but I’m fine, thank God," Barao said. "I’m controlling my weight earlier this time [around], and I’m doing really well. Everything will be fine. I changed a lot of things. I’m controlling my food now, eating more balanced meals. I stopped eating things like pizza and pasta."

Fighting in Brazil for the first time since 2010 makes his job easier too, he says -- not having to travel to a far-off destination.

"I think it’s easier to make weight in Brazil, I’m used to the weather and everything," Barao said. "It’s going to be a lot easier this time."

Barao meets Gagnon in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 58 in Barueri on Dec. 20, and -- despite Gagnon's relatively anonymous bearing in the bantamweight standings -- he wasn’t bothered by the fact that he isn’t facing a top-10 opponent.

"I don’t pick opponents -- I will go in there and fight whoever the UFC wants," he said. "I hear people saying he’s not very popular, but he’s a tough guy and has great submissions. He has five fights and three submissions in the UFC, so he’s a good grappler."

Gagnon is 4-1 in the UFC with three submission finishes, but Barao -- a jiu-jitsu black belt under Andre Pederneiras and Jair Lourenco -- has tapped 14 opponents throughout his MMA career, including the likes of Michael McDonald, Brad Pickett and Chris Cariaso.

"I train with the best grapplers in the world," Barao said, "so I will be ready to bring this victory to Brazil."