Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao had a tough time making 135 pounds for his most recent fights, so he’s moving up to 145 pounds for his return to the Octagon on May 29, when he faces Jeremy Stephens at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
"He’s a tough opponent, a top 10 featherweight, but I’m a UFC fighter and I will be ready to fight and do my best against anyone they put in front of me," Barao told MMAFighting.com. "Let’s do a great fight. I hope it’s a great show for the fans, an exciting fight for everyone."
After a 12-fight run as a bantamweight under the Zuffa banner, racking up a 10-2 record with seven stoppage victories in the UFC and WEC, Barao expects to perform better at 145 pounds.
"We came to the conclusion that I was cutting too much weight and wasn’t recovering 100 percent," he said. "After cutting weight, I felt it a lot. I always trained hard, did six rounds breathing normally, but after I cut weight I felt my muscles and body wear out, so I decided to move up to featherweight and cut less weight. I will have a better performance. I won’t cut too much weight and wear out as I did in all of my previous fights. It will be completely different."
With Dominick Cruz as the champion of the division he excelled for years, Barao could be a win or two away from finally facing "The Dominator" for the 135-pound gold. However, he won’t risk cutting down if his body can’t take it anymore.
"We’re not thinking about moving up or down in the future yet," said Barao, who was scheduled to face Cruz for the title in February 2014, but the champion pulled out with a groin injury. "I think about this fight only. After this fight, we will decide what to do. At first, our goal is to fight in this division."
"It can happen, maybe one more fight and I’m close to the bantamweight title already, but like I said, the weight cut was too much and I wasn’t performing like I always did," he continued. "There’s no point in being close to the bantamweight title if I’m not at my best. The goal is to fight at featherweight now and see what happens next."