The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) won’t license former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao to compete at 135 pounds in the state, and there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding his upcoming bout with Aljamain Sterling.
Barao and Sterling were booked to meet in a bantamweight clash at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif., on July 29, but the contest will now be a 140-pound catchweight, the UFC confirmed with MMA Fighting this week.
“We heard about this three weeks ago,” Barao’s head coach Jair Lourenco told MMA Fighting on Friday. “At first, when I heard, I didn’t even tell Barao because he was focused on his training, but we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. But when (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby offered Sterling a (140-pound catchweight), he asked for more money.
“We didn’t know if the fight was still on or if they were going to change the date or the opponent, but Sean said he would try to make the fight. The UFC had no obligation to pay (Sterling) because that’s a commission’s decision. The commission wants to protect Barao’s health, and I understand that. At first we didn’t like it, but thinking about his health, we understand it."
Barao was “pissed”, Lourenco says, when Sterling went on his social media to say that the weight “doesn’t matter” to him.
“Barao was pissed at Sterling, not at the commission, because he was saying he’d fight at any weight, but that’s not true,” Lourenco said. “He was asking for more money. When he posted that, Sean had already offered us another date and another country (UFC 215 in Edmonton, Canada, on Sept. 9). We were talking to Barao, and this guy posts that? He’s trying to say that Barao was the problem, but he was the problem because he asked for more money."
Lourenco believes that a 140-pound catchweight for UFC 214 is “90 percent done”, but he's still confused with all the changes.
Under the new 10-point weight-cutting plan recently approved by CSAC, the commission would suggest a bantamweight fighter move up to featherweight if he was 10 percent over the weight limit (148.5 pounds) on the day of the fight. Barao is over that limit right now, according to his coach.
“Barao is around 154, 156 pounds,” Lourenco said. “And when he finishes training, sometimes he hits 150."
Yet, Lourenco sees the Brazilian in better shape compared to his days as UFC champion now that he’s living and training in the United States.
“He’s only focused on training here,” said Lourenco, who’s also the head coach of newly crowned Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. “Many people say that training in the United States is different, but it’s not that much. The thing is that you’re completely focused here. It’s possible to do this preparation in Brazil, but many (fighters) think it’s harder because there are more distractions, while you only think about training here."
And to the fans that don’t believe Barao is capable of regaining the bantamweight championship after his recent performances, Lourenco insists.
“He could put on great fights at featherweight, but it would be harder to become champion,” the coach said. “Not that it’s easier at bantamweight, but he was smaller than his opponents at featherweight. At 135, he’s doing a better job managing his weight, not wearing himself out. If he became champion without it, he has more chances now.
“He always had great training in Brazil, but he was always a fighter in the gym, training more than anyone else, but wasn’t an athlete in his daily life, with his diet and all that. When you’re done training here, you’re at home in five minutes to rest, recover and focus. He’s more focused here.
“If fans believed in him when he became champion, I’m sure he has more chances now that he’s more mature as an athlete and as a person. I’m confident that Barao has everything to bring his belt back."