Renan “Barao” Pegado will enter the cage on one of the most celebrated unbeaten streaks in mixed martial arts. The 25-year-old Brazilian has not lost in 29 fights -- 28 victories and a no contest -- but none of his previous opponents carried the promotional might of the man who now opposes him.
“Barao” will face former World Extreme Cagefighting poster boy Urijah Faber for the interim bantamweight championship in the UFC 149 headliner on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The bout provides the Brazilian with a golden opportunity to introduce himself and his talents to a much wider audience.
“I’m not as well known by the American public,” Pegado said during a pre-fight media call for UFC 149. “It’s not a problem for me, and I’m not offended. I just need to show my skills in the Octagon. For us Brazilian fighters, the language barrier is a bit of a problem, but I’ll show everything I have inside the Octagon and give everyone something to remember me by.
“I’m very happy with the opportunity,” he added. “It’s a dream, and it’s a dream I’ve been having for years. I’m very excited to have it. I want to show them all that I have and I want to put on my best fight, and I want more than anything to leave there victorious.”
Faber, who once held the WEC’s 145-pound crown, has won three times in his past four appearances. The 33-year-old Team Alpha Male founder last appeared at UFC 139 in November, when he submitted Brian Bowles with a second-round guillotine choke. “Barao” has tracked his exploits from afar.
“I’ve watched Urijah for years. He’s not a fighter I’m unfamiliar with,” he said. “I think his strong points are his takedowns, and he’s got some nasty elbows I’ll have to watch out for. It’s an honor to be fighting him.”
Faber was originally booked to meet reigning bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in the rubber match of their trilogy. However, a torn knee ligament left Cruz on the sidelines and opened the door for someone else. In stepped “Barao,” who had signed to fight Ivan Menjivar at UFC 148. He welcomed the change in opponent.
“I haven’t felt like it’s impacted my training in any way,” Pegado said. “I make sure to get my work in so I’m ready to fight. The way that I feel the difference is in my happiness. I’m so happy when I see myself on the poster. I thank God for this opportunity and for future main events. I’m extremely happy to be able to show you everything I have, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Should “Barao” defeat Faber for the interim title, he would prefer not to defend it.
“I think I would want to wait to fight Dominick Cruz,” he said. “I would want to convert my interim title into the real title.”
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the long winning streaks of “Barao” and co-main event middleweight Hector Lombard, Brian Ebersole has flown into the show under the radar. The 31-year-old has rattled off 11 consecutive victories, four of them since joining the UFC in February 2011.
Ebersole will replace the injured Claude Patrick in a featured welterweight matchup with James Head, less than a month after he defeated T.J. Waldburger by unanimous decision at UFC on FX 4. Head posted his first Ultimate Fighting Championship victory in April, when he submitted Papy Abedi with a first-round rear-naked choke at UFC on Fuel TV 2. The Oklahoma-based 28-year-old has designs on using Ebersole’s extensive resume to his benefit.
“I’m stoked to fight Ebersole,” Head said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “He is obviously a super tough guy with a lot of momentum behind him right now, and I really look forward to the challenge he presents. I’m aiming to do something none of his 66 opponents have yet to do: knock him out.”
This & That
Faber is 0-4 in his last four title bouts, losing to Mike Thomas Brown (twice) and Jose Aldo in the WEC and Cruz in the UFC ... Lombard, who will make his promotional debut against Tim Boetsch in the co-headliner, has finished 16 opponents during his current 20-fight winning streak, 10 of them inside one round ... Cheick Kongo’s 10 UFC wins tie him with Andrei Arlovski for second on the all-time list among heavyweights, trailing only Frank Mir (14). The Frenchman can move into sole possession of second place with a win over Shawn Jordan ... Matt Riddle has spent his entire nine-fight professional career inside the Octagon. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum will lock horns with Chris Clements, a protégé of the late Shawn Tompkins, in a featured welterweight scrap ... Six fighters on the UFC 149 roster will be seeking their first win within the promotion: Lombard, Ryan Jimmo, Mitch Gagnon, Antonio Carvalho, Anton Kuivanen and Mitch Clarke.