UFC president Dana White made an interesting comparison at the UFC 165 post-fight news conference
early Sunday morning. The promoter insisted that his interim bantamweight champion, Renan Barao, is like boxing's pound-for-pound kingpin, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Now, Barao certainly isn't making Mayweather's $40 million paydays. And Mayweather has never thrown a beautiful spinning back kick like the one Barao landed on Eddie Wineland's face at the Air Canada Centre to finish their fight on Saturday night.
But let's hear White out on his analogy.
"The closest thing to [Mayweather] is this kid right here," White said, pointing at Barao. "He's gone undefeated for eight years, Floyd has gone undefeated for 17 years. Do you know how hard it is to go eight years undefeated? Seriously, think about that. He doesn't get enough credit for the record he has and what this guy is capable of doing, and it's not just like he's undefeated and he goes to decision and outpoints you. This dude [expletive] destroys you."
The latter point, while on the vulgar side, is nonetheless accurate. Barao has morphed into the UFC's silent wrecking machine. Coming out of the Nova Uniao camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is also the home of longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr., Barao lets his work in the Octagon do most of his talking.
Barao lost his first career fight in Brazil back in 2005 and, minus a 2007 no-contest, he has been unstoppable since. Saturday's sensational knockout of Wineland marked his 31st consecutive victory, and he's now 6-0 in the UFC.
If you're looking for Barao to boast, though, you're in for disappointment.
"I'm not out for recognition," Barao said through an interpreter. "That's not my job, it's in God's hands being recognized or not. I'm a fighter, I like what I'm doing, and the recognition is not up to me."
Barao's victory marked the first time in UFC history that an interim champion has made two successful title defenses. Interim belts are created when a champion is out of action due to an injury or a contract dispute, but generally speaking, it is rare that the actual champion is out long enough to merit an interim title defense.
In this case, though, the current titleholder, Dominick Cruz, has been out nearly two years due to a knee injury. The UFC has been accommodating toward Cruz, and for good reason: Cruz is 19-1 and has been dominant as first WEC and then UFC champion. His only loss was to Urijah Faber at featherweight; Cruz handily won their bantamweight rematch. He's the winner of 10 straight fights.
But Barao has come into his own while Cruz has been on the sidelines. Not only did he defeat Faber at UFC 149 to win the interim belt, but he's cleaned out the division underneath him in finishing Wineland and Michael McDonald.
"I consider myself the champion," Barao said. "I'm just waiting for the UFC to make it official and give me the belt."
White holds out hope that Cruz can return soon and the bantamweight fight everyone wants to see gets made.
"I think what makes sense is to wait and see what happens with Cruz and do the Cruz fight next," White said. "So we'll see what happens with Cruz. We'll go from there, and if he can't fight we'll do something else."
Cruz, meanwhile, is clearly itching to get back to action. He's been serving as a UFC studio commentator during his hiatus, and on last night's UFC 165 post-fight show on FOX Sports 2, he made it clear he wants back as soon as possible and he wants Barao.
"I've always said I wanted to fight the best in the world," Cruz said. "I'm not lying about that. ... The difference is, I earned the title. I earned that position in a line of great athletes. I want that shot to fight the best guy. I don't want to go to the back of the line and work my way back up. I want to prove why I belong here and why I have the title, and why I'm the best 135-pounder in the world."
Whether that fight will be made, or whether the company will need to move on from Cruz as champion, will sort itself out soon enough.
In the meantime, though, one fighter came out of Saturday night feeling like he had a gripe. Wineland, a former WEC champ, appeared to win the first round, and felt like the stoppage at 35 seconds of the second round came too fast.
"Umm, personal opinion, I think it was [expletive]," Wineland said. "[Barao] caught me with a great kick. I was by no means out; I was on my way back up. But you know, the refs are at their own discretion and that's what he thought was the right call so my hat's off to [Barao]. It was a good kick."
"It's one of those tough calls," White said. "Trust me, I don't like when a fight is stopped and a guy jumps right back up. But you know, [Wineland] got blasted with that kick. And that's a nasty kick that knocks people out and he looked wobbly even when he got up."
And Barao's take on the situation? Well, if you haven't figured out by now, Barao isn't exactly Mayweather-like with his trash talk.
"I fight anywhere, anyone," Barao said. "I'm just here doing my job and training hard everyday, so I just want to fight."
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: @DaveDoylemma