Brazilian fills in for injured champ Cruz
Urijah Faber had to wait a while, but his boss put the speculation to rest on Friday night.
Faber will fight Renan Barao for the interim bantamweight title at UFC 148 in July. The new fight was announced live on Friday night’s episode of “The Ultimate Fighter LIVE,” and Barao appeared on the show for a face-off with Faber.
UFC 148 takes place July 7 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and features a main event middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. The Faber-Barao interim title fight will serve as the five-round co-main event.
Faber (26-5, 2-1 UFC) was scheduled to face bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz for a third time this summer. The two currently are coaching opposite each other on TUF Live and were to meet in the traditional coaches fight after the season.
Faber beat Cruz over five years ago when he was the WEC featherweight champion, defending his title. But at bantamweight, Cruz defended his title last July with a unanimous decision win.
But Cruz (19-1, 2-0 UFC) recently tore his ACL training for the fight and will be on the shelf likely for the rest of the year. He has not yet had surgery for the injury, electing to finish his coaching duties on TUF Live, which will have its semifinals and last regular-season episode next Friday.
Barao (28-1, 1 NC, 3-0 UFC), a Brazilian jiujitsu black belt who trains with the acclaimed Nova Uniao team in Rio de Janeiro, has amassed an amazing run of 29 straight fights without a loss – going 28-0 with one no contest since opening his career with an April 2005 loss.
Barao fought exclusively in his home country of Brazil until he signed with the WEC in 2010, where he went 2-0 with a pair of submissions before moving to the UFC in the merger of the two promotions. At UFC 130, he debuted with a unanimous decision win over Cole Escovedo. He then picked up a Fight of the Night bonus for a first-round submission of Brad Pickett at UFC 138. And at UFC 143 in Febraury, he outpointed Scott Jorgensen with a sweep of the judges’ scorecards.
Barao had already been scheduled to fight at UFC 148 against Ivan Menjivar in what was thought to be a bantamweight title eliminator fight. Now he’ll fight for the interim belt.
It is not yet known if Menjivar will remain on the card against a new opponent or if he will be removed. Michael McDonald, who scored a recent knockout win over former champion Miguel Torres, was also thought to be in the running for the fight with Faber. But he reportedly is injured and would be unable to be ready in time – which means he’s not likely to be moved into a fight against Menjivar.