Brazilian featherweight prospect Raoni Barcelos’ dream is to fight in the UFC. He hopes that his upcoming RFA featherweight title defense against Dan Moret is enough to convince the promotion to sign him.
Barcelos faces Moret in the co-main event of RFA 45 in Prior Lake, Minnesota on Friday night, and the fact that Lando Vannata already is a UFC fighter makes no sense for him.
The 10-1 Brazilian was scheduled to put his title on the line against Vannata last March, but Vannata missed weight and the fight was cancelled. Four months later, the American fighter signed with the UFC to face Tony Ferguson on short notice.
"He missed weight, and didn’t want to make the weight we asked," Barcelos told MMA Fighting. "My coaches saw that he looked fine, so they asked him to lose more, but he declined. He said he couldn’t do it anymore, so the fight was cancelled. It wouldn’t be for the title because he missed weight, so it wasn’t interesting for me anymore. I’m the champion! He was unprofessional, he missed weight. The truth is he didn’t want to fight."
According to Barcelos, Vannata came in at 146.8 pounds, and his team asked the challenger to at least make 146 to fight a non-title bout.
"We asked him to lose some more, and he did nothing," Barcelos said. "A few months later he signed with the UFC. We don’t understand how it works with the UFC. It doesn’t actually bother me. I just wish I had fought him, but unfortunately it all happened. It doesn’t bother me, but I wonder what do I have to do because I did everything right and he did everything wrong, but he’s where I wanted to be."
Vannata says he won’t fight at 145 pounds anymore, competing at lightweight instead. But Barcelos hopes to one day have the chance to finally fight him. If it’s inside the Octagon, even better.
"It would be wonderful for both of us," said the Brazilian. "He has to make the weight, and then we can fight. I want to be in the UFC to fight the best, and I would love to finally fight him."
Facing a 10-2 prospect in Moret, Barcelos hopes that a win finally gets him a UFC contract as a reward. However, the Rio de Janeiro-native won’t waste any energy thinking about it.
"That’s what I always expect after my fights, but I decided to stop thinking about it," said the Ruas Vale Tudo talent. "Every time I fight people ask me if this is it, if I’m going to the UFC next, and I keep getting more anxious. I will let things happen and stop worrying about it. When the time comes, I know I’ll be 100 percent ready. It’s been a tough road to get there, but I know I’ll be happy when the day comes."
Before demanding a shot in the UFC, though, Barcelos has to do his homework and get past Moret in Minnesota. After training with his idol Marco Ruas for a few days ahead of RFA 45, Barcelos feels no one can beat him.
"(Moret) is a grappler, and his style is pretty similar to mine," Barcelos said. "This is how I’ll fight: if he comes to punch and kick, I’ll grapple; if he comes to grapple, I’ll punch and kick him. His style is similar to my last opponent’s as well, so I won’t have any issue. I’m ready for everything he brings."
"I have no reason to play (Moret’s) game. I have to do my thing, what we planned throughout the camp," he continued. "Marco visited my training a few times for this fight, and listening to his ideas is huge for me, like it is when Pedro Rizzo and my father help me. It’s amazing to have legends around you. I grew up watching Marco fight, so it’s wonderful to have him helping me. I’m still young in this sport, and I try to learn everything they teach me. It was the perfect camp."
Barcelos compares Moret’s style to Bobby Moffett, whom he defeated via unanimous decision in June. And he has an advantage this time compared to his first title defense: he didn’t have to worry about going after money to pay for his travel expenses.
"RFA doesn’t pay our flight expenses," Barcelos said. "You have to go out and try getting sponsors to pay for it, but at the same time it’s a big promotion that puts you in a big spot in the United States, which airs your fights on free TV and more.
"To me, even though they don’t pay my flights, it’s important that I’m the champion of an organization like RFA," Barcelos continued. "We go through tough times here in Brazil, but it’s hard for every athlete, so it’s not an issue for me. It gives me more strength to go after my main goal, which is sign with the UFC."
The featherweight champion did a seminar alongside his coach Pedro Rizzo to pay for his flight to defend his belt at RFA 39, and that money also helped him during his last training camp.
"We did a seminar to gather money to go for the fight, and thank God we made it with the help of some friends, too. And we had a sponsor this time, so it was easier," Barcelos said. "I’m growing as an athlete, step by step, and now I can pay my sparrings, a better food, and even my fuel between fights. I can do that for months. I could be making more, but I don’t complain about what I’m making at RFA."