Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Dana White media chat part 1
Dana White media chat part 2
- Tension brewing between Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce
- UFC 143 breakdown, betting odds and picks
- Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit promise a war at UFC 143
- Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber named ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ 15 coaches
- UFC 138 results: Stoppages fill main card
- Knee injury takes Georges St. Pierre off of UFC 143 in Las Vegas
- UFC coverage
- All MMA/boxing coverage
Asked last week which fighters he saw as future challengers to his belt, the first name out of UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz’s mouth was Renan Barao.
UFC President Dana White has also taken a liking to the 25-year old Brazilian. White has raved about Barao ever since he knocked down Brad Pickett with a flying knee and submitted the veteran with a rear-naked choke in the first round of the UFC 138 co-main event four months ago.
Barao has everyone’s attention in mixed martial arts.
“I have worked very hard,” Barao said through a translator. “I’m ready for my moment.”
Barao (27-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) receives the toughest test of his career thus far on the pay-per-view main card of Saturday’s UFC 143 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. He faces perennial bantamweight contender Scott Jorgensen (13-4 MMA, 2-0 UFC).
Many would consider Barao and Jorgensen two of the top five 135-pound fighters in the world.
“It’s a big fight,” White said. “Everyone is asking me if the winner of this fight is in line for a title shot. We’ll see.”
Normally, a victory in a fight of this magnitude would give Barao a résumé strong enough to warrant a bout with Cruz. But Cruz is booked for the first half of the year while he recovers from hand surgery and coaches opposite Urijah Faber on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Cruz and Faber are expected to fight for the third time sometime this summer. That means Barao and Jorgensen will likely have to compete again before a championship bout is available.
“If the UFC wants, I’m ready now,” Barao said. “If it’s not the right time, I can keep waiting. But the title is my goal.”
Some may argue Barao has waited long enough. He hasn’t lost a fight in seven years. Barao’s only defeat, a split decision, came in the first professional bout of his career.
He’s reeled off 27 straight wins since then with 13 submissions, six knockouts and eight decisions.
“Just because you’ve won 28 fights or a million fights doesn’t mean you’re going to win this next one,” Jorgensen said. “Every time you step into that cage, you can lose.”
That’s Jorgensen’s reasoning for what happened to him in December 2010. Jorgensen faced Cruz in a WEC championship bout and lost every round in a unanimous-decision defeat.
But he beat Ken Stone and Jeff Curran last year to get back on track in what he called “emphatic” performances. Jorgensen said another standout performance against Barao would prove he was worthy of another title shot.
Jorgensen, who wrestled for Boise State in college, said the style matchup shaped up poorly for Barao.
“He’s never faced a wrestler with the credentials or abilities I have,” he said. “He hasn’t gone against anyone who has taken him the distance and made it, more or less, a grind.”
Barao’s strengths rest in kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He left his home before turning 18 years old to train in Rio de Janeiro at Nova Uniao, the heralded gym home to the likes of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Diego Nunes.
It’s taken nearly a decade of hard work to put Barao at the top. Falling off now, according to Barao, isn’t an option.
“I think I showed exactly what I wanted to show in the last fight,” Barao said. “Nobody I’ve fought has been an easy opponent.”