Renan “The Baron” Barao is, without doubt, one of the greatest mixed martial artists we’ve ever seen grace the octagon. He held one of the longest win streaks in MMA history and was a formidable champion in the UFC bantamweight division. In this article, we’re going to look at “The Barons” early career and how he ruled his division for many years, and then take a look at what went wrong for the Brazilian.
Barao was born in Natal, Brazil. He grew up in the rough slums of Brazil and no doubt had to learn to defend himself from a very young age. Barao trained at the infamous Nova Uniao (with fellow Brazilian hitman Jose Aldo) where he slept on a bed which was made out of a board laid across a stack of bricks. The Brazilian would go to bed early and sleep in late so he only had to afford lunch. Times were very hard for Barao and his family. “My grandmother, my mother and aunt are the people who took care of me. I had a tough childhood,” Barao said in a UFC interview. “My mom was too young. She couldn’t really take care of me, so my aunt helped and my grandparents raised me. They still care for me today.” Despite these struggles, the Nova Uniao standout remained solely focused on becoming the greatest mixed martial artist on the planet, at whatever cost!
In 2005 Barao made his professional debut at Heat FC, he lost the fight to Joao Paulo Rodrigues by a decision. Not deterred by this minor hiccup Barao only grew more hungry for success. Nobody would have expected from that performance that Barao would go on to win his next 32 fights in a row and become one of the greatest fighters of all time. After the defeat, Barao fought in various Brazilian organisations, punching holes through, and tapping out every poor soul that stood in front of him.
Then a great opportunity presented itself to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, a contract with Shooto, one of the biggest MMA Promotions to come out of Brazil. Barao continued to knockout and submit everyone in Shooto, he also had a few fights in different organisations, but he mainly dominated Shooto. And in 2010 Sherdog named him number one on their “top 10 Brazilians to watch in the future” list, they sure weren’t wrong.
In 2010 with a 24-1 record, Barao made his debut for WEC and although it was only a short stay, “The Baron” made an impact and submitted both Anthony Leone and Chris Cariaso in spectacular fashion. Then Barao got the call he’d always dreamed of. The UFC wanted him to fight under their lights, and without a second thought, the Brazilian accepted with open arms.
Barao made his debut at UFC 130 where he beat Cole Escovedo by decision. He then went on to tap out Brad Pickett in front of his beloved English hometown fans, then a decision victory over Scott Jorgensen earnt Barao a shot at the Interim bantamweight belt. This would not come easily though, as it was against Uriah Faber who was also in decent form. Barao managed to beat Faber by decision and was scheduled to fight the champion Dominick Cruz, but a second ACL tear meant Cruz was expected to be out for a long time, so the Brazilian was crowned the official UFC bantamweight champion.
Barao defended the belt three times in style. He submitted Michael Mcdonald, knocked out Eddie Wineland with a spinning back kick, and then knocked out Uriah Faber. Barao was feared, his opponents didn’t know if they would have their heads punched or kicked clean off, or whether Barao would linch onto a limb and try and break it. Either way, it wasn’t going to be pretty for anyone who got in “The Barons” way. Confident on his win streak, the Brazilian said in an interview with UFC Espanol: “I’m very relaxed with this winning streak issue; sometimes it’s mentioned by my teammates regarding the number of fights I have won one after other, but I don’t think on it”.
At UFC 170 Barao was scheduled to fight Raphael Assuncao, but Assuncao was ruled out due to a rib injury sustained in his previous fight which didn’t heal as expected. This left the door open for the American TJ Dillashaw. The Californian was a heavy underdog in the fight and was coming up against his toughest test yet, the formidable Renan Barao. In a fight that shocked the world, TJ Dillashaw absolutely kicked the living stuff out of Barao. Dillashaw was first to every punch and was able to dictate the fight completely. In the fifth round Barao could take no more, Dillashaw landed a head kick of beauty and followed it up with some punches, the referee was forced to stop the fight. The 32 fight unbeaten streak over nine years had come to an end. The UFC bantamweight division had a new king, and there was absolutely nothing Barao could do to change it.
“The Baron” went on to submit Mitch Gagnon and won another performance of the night bonus, the impressive display given by Barao gave him another shot at champion Dillashaw. But history was sure to be repeated. Dillashaw emerged victorious for the second time proving that the first fight was no fluke and that he was, in fact, the real deal!
Since then Barao has gone downhill massively, Barao even tried stepping up in weight to reignite his fire but has only managed to accumulate a 1-3 record. Losing to Jeremy Stephens, Aljamain Sterling and Brian Kelleher.
It’s no surprise that Barao is still fighting as he knows nothing else, “The Baron” has been fighting for so long theirs nothing else in the world he wants to do, despite his body telling him otherwise. Barao has got nothing more to prove and if he did decide to retire, I’m sure it’s a decision even his biggest fans would respect. The Brazilian built up an outstanding legacy and will surely be inducted into the UFC’s Hall Of Fame. Barao doesn’t have a fight booked at the present time and is silent on his future plans. But we can all admire what a legend the Brazilian is and it’s been an honour being able to watch “The Baron” lay down the law in mixed martial art’s greatest proving ground.