Renan “Barão” can emerge as a title contender with a victory at UFC 138. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Renan “Barão” spent a large part of his career competing in relative obscurity, but an invincible sequence of 27 fights tends to make one stand out.
Candidate Nova União, 24, will face Brad Pickett, of the American Top Team, in the main co-event of UFC 138 “Leben vs. Munoz ”on Saturday at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England. The winner could be taken to the title race in a division hungry for new challengers for current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Baron made his promotional debut at UFC 130 in May, registering his 16th consecutive victory and defeating former WEC champion Cole Escovedo via unanimous decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Skillful finisher, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt recorded 18 of his 26 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Barão talks about preparing for his most important confrontation with Pickett, training alongside UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and going down to the 135-pound division.
Baron: My training was 100 percent. I did a lot of physical preparation, wrestling, boxing and jiu-jitsu. I am training with all the Nova União staff and I helped those who fought before me. They helped me too. It was great.
Baron: I arrived here four months ago. I’m living in an apartment that André Pederneiras leaves for those who live outside Rio to train here. I’m there with Ronys Torres, Carlos [Alexandre] “Indian” [Pereira] and some other athletes on the team. We are all good friends. We help each other and this is really cool.
Baron: Pickett is a tough and experienced guy who always fights well. I’m sure it will be a great fight. Despite being his debut in the UFC, he has experience and has fought in big promotions like WEC and Cage Rage. It will be a great challenge.
Baron: The UFC has a very different climate than it was at WEC. I thought I made a good debut, but I could have fought better. During the fight, I discovered that the way to victory was the fall, so I let the game go. I thought the audience and the UFC directors liked it, but I think I could have won before without making a decision.
Baron: No, I don’t think about the title. I am very focused on Pickett because he is a very difficult opponent. When the opportunity arises to fight for the title, I will grab it tooth and nail, but my focus is now on Pickett.
Baron: Certainly, Aldo is a big mirror for me. He is a great warrior and gives me a lot of advice. He arrived yesterday and was at the gym today, talking to me about my fight and giving me some tips. He’s a great champion.
Baron: In fact, when I fought in Brazil, I didn’t have adequate food. I got into the fight, lost weight and got ready. No longer. Now, I outline a more professional approach and follow a diet. I have already beaten that weight in three fights, and I even went below the weight limit. I am well adjusted and finding that balance is not a problem for me. It’s boring, but it’s not a problem (laughs).