Renen Barão: The True Champ
By defeating a top contender in Urijah Faber at UFC 149, Renen “The Baron” Barão has earned the rights to the UFC interim bantamweight belt. Subsequently, Barao has defeated the likes of Michael McDonald and most recently Eddie Wineland, all while awaiting the return of current champion, Dominick Cruz. UFC fans have been pleading the case of Barão, who has been nothing short of a world-beater for the past eight years—that’s correct, eight years. Barão has literally not lost a fight in the Earth’s last eight spins, yet still remains one of the most underrated and unrecognized names in all of mixed martial arts. At 30-1-1, Barão his been unstoppable since his only loss back in 2005, which was a loss to Joao Paulo Rodrigues de Souza at Heat FC 3. Dominick Cruz, meanwhile, has not fought since 2011 at UFC Live 6, where he successfully defended his belt against Demetrious Johnson, who has since dropped down a weight class and claimed the flyweight belt.
Barão and Cruz are scheduled to meet in the cage sometime next year, assuming that Cruz’s recovery from his hurt knee goes as planned. Barring another injury, the UFC brass seems set on Barão retaining the interim tag. My question to UFC president Dana White is simple: why? Why would someone who has not fought in two years, and is not expected to fight for another few months, still remain champion? While, technically, he has not lost—the decision to keep Cruz as the champion is understandable—but the decision to declare Barão champion makes far more sense. Once Cruz is able to fight again, he should immediately be given a title shot.
In 2008, at UFC 92, former Champion Frank Mir defeated Minotauro Nogueira to claim the interim heavyweight belt. Immediately after the fight, Mir blasted the belt’s interim tag and deemed it as being illegitimate. It was clear that Mir did not feel as though he was the champion, and would not be satisfied until he had a chance to capture the belt against Brock Lesner, who was unable to defend his title due to a pulled hamstring. The feeling around Barão is eerily similar. The UFC needs to eliminate the interim tag, and make it clear that fighters who are physically unable to perform for extended periods of time will not be aloud to hold the champion title. Clearly, mixed martial arts are an extremely high contact sport, so injuries are to be expected. However, under no circumstance should a fighter not perform for over two years and still remain champion. The UFC cannot mess this up again. Barão deserves the belt, and should be defending it against Cruz, when he is able to return. Your call Dana.