Renan Barão steps into the main event of UFC 149 to face Urijah Faber in a battle that will declare the interim UFC bantamweight champion. The battle for the belt, however, is only but a symbol of a much deeper accomplishment for Barão. Like many of his Brazilian compatriots, he has had to fight through much more than a gym full of training partners to get to the top.
When he began training at Nova União, Barão slept on a bed that was little more than a board laid across a stack of bricks, going to bed early and sleeping in late just to shorten the days so that he didn’t have to come up with money for more than lunch.
Still he trained. Still he put in the work in a quest to make something of himself, rising up from his humble roots.
“My grandmother, my mother and aunt are the people who took care of me. I had a tough childhood,” Barão said in a recent UFC interview. “My mom was too young. She couldn’t really take care of me, so my aunt helped and my grandparents raised me. They still care for me today.”
Though the finances were meager, Barão had tremendous family support and an upbringing that obviously instilled strong values and work ethic deep within his core.
He’s proven as much, amassing a professional record of 28-1-1, working his way into the position he’s in now, fighting for a UFC championship, despite little recognition.
“I’m just not as well known by the American public,” said Barão. “It’s not a problem. I’ll show everything I have inside the Octagon.
“I feel so happy to do this event. Every time I see myself on the posters, I feel so proud to be able to be up there, showing you guys my work, showing you guys who I am as a fighter.”
In the midst of a 19-fight streak, it would be permissible for Barão to be confident, if not cocky coming into the fight, especially since his training partner, Jose Aldo, destroyed Faber in their fight in the WEC.
But that’s not Barão’s way.
“He’s not a fighter that I’m unfamiliar with and he’s excellent. I think his strong points are his takedowns. I also think when he’s on top in the top position he throws some nasty elbows that I’ll have to watch out for. And definitely it’s an honor to be fighting him.
“Obviously we benefited from Aldo’s input. Aldo knows how Urijah fights and he was able to help us devise our strategy going in to make this camp, so thank God we had an excellent camp and we’re very ready for this fight.”
Faber doesn’t necessarily agree that training with Aldo is really going to give Barão much of an advantage in their fight.
“Is he going to bring Jose Aldo there to help fight me?” quipped Faber.
But the former WEC featherweight champion isn’t among those in the dark about Barão’s skills. Faber knows what he’s up against in the streaking Brazilian, claiming it’s a much tougher fight than he faced in his original opponent, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Regardless of the comparisons to Cruz or Aldo, Barão is a fighter that has earned his way on his own merits. He knows that it’s going to take all the work he has put in over the years combined with the specific efforts for this fight to reach his ultimate goal of becoming a UFC champion, and that is something he doesn’t take for granted.
“Obviously it’s a dream. And the dream to fight for the title isn’t a dream that I’ve had just now; it’s something I’ve dreamt about for years. So I am thrilled to be having this opportunity.”
Barão faces Faber for the interim UFC bantamweight championship in the UFC 149 main event on Saturday night in Calgary.