Renan Barao won the UFC interim bantamweight title Saturday night at UFC 149, but the Brazilian did not win over the crowd.
While those in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, may have been influenced by the preceding two bouts on the card -- both of which went to the judges’ scorecards in unspectacular fashion -- boos nonetheless rang out among the 16,000-plus fans as Barao (Pictured, file photo) calmly controlled the cage in the evening’s headliner and stifled highly regarded opponent Urijah Faber.
Though UFC President Dana White defended the main event as a measured, technical battle that should not be grouped in with the aforementioned duo of disappointing pay-per-view bouts, Barao stated that he hopes to put forth a more fan-friendly performance in his next outing.
“I’m very happy. Faber is a great fighter and a great human being. I would like to thank him for speaking out my name to fight against him. I was a bit surprised [by the boos], but that’s a good message. Next time, I will try to play a different game,” Barao said at the post-fight press conference following his unanimous decision win. “I was trying to become the champ, so I was trying to be careful as well, but next time, I’ll try to play a different game to please the crowd a little more.”
Barao used his superior reach to keep Faber at bay while landing shots on “The California Kid.” Though Faber gamely attempted to navigate the long limbs of Barao throughout the five-round affair, the onetime WEC featherweight champion came up short in his second attempt at capturing UFC gold.
“My strategy was to keep my distance, because he has a really strong right hand and I had the reach advantage,” said Barao. “So, if I could keep my reach advantage and hit him and get out, it would be better for me. That’s why my coaches designed that strategy.”
With the interim title belt now securely around his waist, Barao appears poised to confront divisional ruler Dominick Cruz -- the man Barao replaced in tonight’s main event after “The Dominator” was forced to withdraw from his rubber match with Faber due to an ACL tear. Though Barao now stands just one fight way from being regarded by most as the best bantamweight on the planet, the Nova Uniao product did not call out Cruz following tonight’s victory. Instead, the Brazilian says he will take his cues from the UFC and his coaching staff.
“It’s not up to me to decide who I fight next. It’s up to the UFC, and I’m an employee of the UFC. I’ll fight anyone,” said Barao. “Dominick Cruz is a great champ and athlete, but my strategy will be up to my coach to decide. What I can say is that I will train as hard as I can, just like I did for this fight, so I can get a win.”