No Longer Waiting, Renan Barao Looking Forward to Battle with McDonald

Duane FinleyContributor IDecember 20, 2012

Jul 21, 2012; Calgary, AB, CANADA; Renan Barao during the interim bantamweight title bout of UFC 149 against Urijah Faber (not pictured) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The waiting game is over for Renan Barao.

The UFC interim bantamweight champion had decided to wait for Dominick Cruz's return from injury in hopes of unifying the divisional title. But after the reigning 135-pound champion reported his recovery would be prolonged due to complication's with the repaired ligaments in his knee resulting in a second ACL tear, Barao immediately decided to move forward.

The rising Brazilian star will put his title on the line against surging prospect turned contender Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in London, England. Both fighters have played a huge part in the shaping of the weight class in Cruz's absence, and while the unification bout is the fight Barao wanted, the 25-year-old is at ease with the situation.

"I am peaceful," Barao told Bleacher Report through translator Francisco Sigiliano. "The goal is Cruz, but something unforeseen can happen and change the opponent. What matters most is the fight. I really wanted to fight as soon as possible. I'm exited to not have to wait that long."

The buzz surrounding Barao has been building for years and for good reason. After losing his first professional effort in 2005, Barao has not tasted defeat since the Nova Uniao product has collected 29 consecutive victories in versatile fashion. He has proven to be dangerous wherever the fight takes place, scoring a mixture of knockouts and submission finishes over the course of his impressive run.

When he finally made his North American debut at WEC 49 in 2010, Barao made the most of the opportunity, submitting Anthony Leone with an armbar in the third round. Once the WEC merged into the UFC, Barao put his foot on the gas and did not look back as he steamrolled his way through upper-tier caliber competition the likes of Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen and former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber.

The victory over the "California Kid" earned Barao his first UFC title and his journey to the top has garnered acclaim across the MMA landscape. The young Brazilian is nominated for "Breakthrough Fighter  of the Year" at the 2012 World MMA Awards, and is a big reason his coach Andre Pederneiras, and gym Nova Uniao, are up for awards as well.

Barao's time in the spotlight is only just beginning, and long hours spent in the gym working to become UFC champion are starting to pay dividends.

"It is a dream that we've been working towards for many years," Barao said. "It is the result of the hard work we have labored for many years with various positive results. I am very happy."

While the original plan was a showdown with Cruz, the path has altered courses, and the current road leads to McDonald in England.

Neither man has been defeated under the Zuffa banner. While Barao's win streak has been a hot topic of conversation, "Mayday" has put together an impressive run in his own right. The 21-year old has earned eight consecutive victories with his most recent win coming in highlight reel fashion as he knocked out former champion Miguel Torres in the first round of their bout at UFC 145 in April.

Both Barao and McDonald have the capability to end a fight wherever the action takes place. Their main event bout in London will be a show case of the division's future as both fighters bring a well rounded skill set into the Octagon. There is no doubt Barao has become one of the weight class's most feared strikers, but he is not looking past McDonald in any form or fashion.

"We will assemble the best possible strategy," Barao said. "I do not know if striking will be an advantage for me. I try to train in all areas and that keeps me comfortable standing and on the ground. I am happy to show my work in the best way possible. I'm going to battle forward. I'll give my best and try to come out with the win at all costs."