SAO PAULO, Brazil — The days when Joe Rogan called Renan Barao “a monster” and UFC president Dana White argued that the bantamweight was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet are long gone. Now, the former UFC champion sits on an uncomfortable four-fight skid and is 1-6 over his last seven bouts.
Many wondered if the American Top Team fighter would have another opportunity after missing weight for his last two bouts, losing a split decision to newcomer Andre Ewell, and getting knocked out by Luke Sanders, but the UFC has decided to give him a chance at UFC Sao Paulo, matching him up against Douglas Silva de Andrade in a featherweight contest.
Andrade is also moving up from 135 pounds to fight at Saturday night’s event in Brazil. Even though he thinks Barao deserved an extra shot in the company despite winning in only two of his last nine appearances, Andrade wonders why he hasn’t been the same since losing his UFC belt to T.J. Dillashaw in 2014.
“I don’t know what happened, if there was something personal, the team he was training at, but it’s something athletes go through sometimes,” Andrade said in a media scrum. “It wasn’t a surprise (that he wasn’t cut). An athlete with his history, who built that type of legacy, always deserves an opportunity. It was not a surprise for me.”
Barao hasn’t had a great performance since February 2014, when he knocked out Urijah Faber to defend his 135-pound for a second time. Yet, Andrade expects to see “a well-trained Barao” at the Ibirapuera gymnasium.
“I believe he’s trying to get back on his feet,” Andrade said. “We’ll see when we get in there to fight. Fights are always a surprise. I have the utmost respect for him. He will always be a champion for me. He had his legacy and wants to do that again, so we have to be ready for that. His personal stuff and those things are in the past, what matters is that he’s active, in a good team, and I’m sure he’s ready.
“It gives me more motivation. I admire him a lot, and I’m happy to be fighting him. He has a vast arsenal on the feet and good grappling. Wherever my coaches tell me to work, I’ll be on him.”
Andrade joined the UFC two weeks after Barao defended his belt for the last time, but had his 22-fight winning streak snapped by Zubaira Tukhugov. The Brazilian cut down to bantamweight after that night, going 3-1 over his next four bouts—including a decision win over Marlon Vera—before deciding to return to featherweight following a stoppage loss to Petr Yan this past December.
“I was talking to my coaches and we opted to move up because I was cutting way too much weight,” said Andrade, who finished his camp with UFC veteran and MMA coach Pedro Rizzo in Rio de Janeiro. “I was dehydrating too much to make weight at bantamweight. I made weight well a few times, but it was hard, so we opted to move up.
“I used to cut 33, 35 pounds. I even cut 42 pounds sometimes. For someone as lean as I am, it’s f*ckedd up. I was always on a diet, always stressed. I believe I’ll have a better performance now because of that.”