One of the best-kept secrets in mixed martial arts will take the sport's biggest stage this Saturday night in Calgary at UFC 149.
For the past seven years, Brazilian Renan Barao has been a wrecking machine, amassing an impressive 28-fight win streak. During this stretch, no opposition has been able to find an answer for his unique blend of speed, power and precision. When those attributes are matched with a slick ground game, Barao becomes a nightmare to decipher.
Since coming stateside, Barao has looked unstoppable. Now the task falls on former WEC champion Urijah Faber to do what 28 others could not.
Following the injury to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, the UFC tapped Barao to step into action against "The California Kid." Due to the lengthy amount of time Cruz will be sidelined, the organization opted to create an interim title in order to keep the divisional picture moving.
At UFC 149, Barao will find himself one victory away from reaching his goal of becoming a UFC champion. It is an opportunity he's dreamed of for years. He credits his family at Nova Uniao, including featherweight champion Jose Aldo, for helping prepare him for the biggest fight of his career.
"What motivates me is what I've gotten past in my life and my training," Barao told Bleacher Report through his translator Eduardo Perdigao. "The consecutive victories are the result of my hard work. I'm very happy to have this opportunity and only have my teammates to thank."
"Training with Jose Aldo has absolutely helped me prepare, but my other teammates like Hacra, Jonny, Beicao, Dudu Dantas and Marlon have been a big factor as well."
Faber, once the long-reigning champion of the WEC featherweight division, has been one of the sport's most dominant fighters in the lighter weight classes. Much like Barao, Faber is familiar with putting together win streaks.
Before losing his title to Mike Brown, Faber notched 13 consecutive victories inside the blue cage, using his wrestling and power to steamroll the opposition. Barao is confident he can handle Faber's greatest attribute and is looking forward to mixing it up with the former champion.
"I've trained my wrestling as well as my takedown defense," Barao said. "My training has gone very well. I'm very focused for this fight and his wrestling will not be a problem. It will be a tough fight. Urijah is an experienced fighter and well rounded. I will do my best to get that belt."
As the main event at UFC 149 approaches, Barao's ability to fly under the radar will become nonexistent. Should he be victorious against Faber, Barao will join the growing list of Brazilian UFC champions. While he feels honored to represent his country, the heat of the spotlight doesn't phase him.
"I'm very happy to be Brazilian and represent my country in the UFC," Barao said. "Brazil needs victories and happiness. I am prepared to give all I can for the Brazilian people."
"I'm feeling no pressure at all for this fight. I just have to do my part and put my trust in my coaches and friends."
Throughout his career, Barao has been a fighter who allows his work inside the cage to do the talking. Of his 28 victories, 19 have come by either knockout or submission. The language barrier may create some issues with the American fanbase, but fighting is a universal language. Barao plans on doing his part and giving fans a performance they can appreciate.
"I'm an extremely focused fighter," Barao said. "I am a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and my skills are very well rounded. Most importantly, I never give up. This is going to be a great fight on a big card. I'm excited to face Urijah Faber. Let's do it!"