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Dana White: Renan Barao 'in the process' of becoming a star, but not there yet

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE, Md. -- UFC President Dana White has told media and virtually any party who will listen he believes UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao is arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and deserving of far more praise and attention that he currently receives from fans or media.

Interestingly, however, Barao expressed comments to a Brazilian media outlet recently he is unhappy with his current UFC contract. "I'm very happy being a UFC champion. But I would like to improve my contract," Barao said.

"Actually, an example: I know that [Urijah] Faber is a much older guy in the UFC, but he's not even the champion and has a much better purse than mine.

"It is what it is, we're working for it to improve. I hope that after this fight i can have a much better contract. I hope it improves every day. This depends on the contract, but I hope they remember that I saved an event."

Barao is ostensibly referring to UFC 173 in May, where he will headline opposite T.J. Dillashaw, given the event was initially set to be headlined by Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida. Barao's reference to Faber, however, comes from both men's last fight, which was against one another at UFC 169 last February.

"Show me a guy who's thrilled with his contract," White said when asked to respond to Barao's comments at Thursday's media day to promote UFC 172. "I want to meet that f--king guy. Even Manny Pacquiao wasn't happy with his money to fight Floyd Mayweather and that number's $40 million."

While White wasn't particularly pleased with some of Barao's statements - "He 'saved the event'. When guys start talking like that, I hope that's not the direction we're going with Barao right now" - he did argue the UFC recognizes Barao's greatness and is in the process of trying to promote him in hopes of turning the fighter into a star attraction.

"It's always going to be tough and Barao's in this spot. Listen, who's been beating the Barao drum more than me? I think this kid, he's not there yet. He's the champion, but not the big star yet.

"Who says more positive things about Barao than me?," White asked the media in attendance. "Guy's been winning fights for nine years and hasn't lost, he's on this incredible win streak, he finishes guys. He comes in, he's a fun fighter to watch, exciting. I don't disagree. I don't disagree. You have to be able to deliver the numbers and we're in the process now of building Barao into the star that I think he should be."