Renan Barao has now twice defended an interim UFC bantamweight title that, fairly or not, has the distinction of being considered "less than." Full champ Dominick Cruz has been sidelined for nearly two years with an injured ACL.
Finally, the two champions will meet in Feb. at UFC 169 in Newark, NJ to unify the titles and settle who the best 135 pound MMA fighter in the world really is. Speaking with Chuck Mindenhall in New York City recently to promote the fight with Cruz, Barao expressed his excitement for the highly anticipated bout.
"I'm truly happy this fight is finally going to happen," he said.
"With all the media around it, it just really makes me happy to see that people recognize us."
Not that the Brazilian feels he still has to prove that he's the rightful bantamweight king, or anything.
"I personally feel like that I’ve been a champion, not just now, but for some time," Barao said.
"This is just a chance to unify the belts and show everybody what I can do, and keep these belts for a while."
The Nova Uniao team member says his advantage over Cruz will come from the strength of his stable, not from simply being active while Cruz may have collected rust.
"I think my advantage is really my own training," he said.
"I’ve always said that. It’s the best. I train with the best in the world, and I’ll just be well prepared and that’s going to be my advantage."
Who do you have in this unification fight on Super Bowl Saturday? Let us know in the comments section.
Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda