For the better part of two years, Renan Barao was regarded as the best bantamweight in the world and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
He ran through top 10 opponents like Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland while reigning as the UFC champion at 135 pounds. Though that all came at a price, as Barao accomplished it all while suffering through a brutal series of weight cuts to even qualify to fight at bantamweight.
The 29-year-old Brazilian's decision to continue to push himself to make 135 pounds eventually backfired after Barao lost his title to T.J. Dillashaw and rushed back for a rematch just a few months later.
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Barao ended up passing out from the weight cut and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment, which led to the cancellation of the title fight rematch.
When he finally reclaimed the No. 1 contender's position, Barao once again struggled to get down in weight. His performance made him look like a shell of the force of nature fighter he once was while he competed in the bantamweight division.
So following that defeat, Barao sat down with his coaches and trusted advisors, and they all decided that a move up to featherweight was really the best choice for his life and for his career.
"Since my last fight, I was having problems about cutting weight and my performances weren't that good," Barao told FOX Sports. "So after the last defeat I had, me and my team decided that I should go up one category. I'm going to be stronger and I can fight the way I should."
The move to featherweight had actually been suggested previously, but Barao seemed to avoid the shift in divisions because his teammate Jose Aldo reigned as the UFC featherweight champion at the time.
Aldo is no longer champion, but he is battling for an interim title at UFC 200. Regardless of that result, Barao says he talked to his teammate when the decision was first made for his move to featherweight and they discussed competing in the same division.
Whether or not they'd actually fight each other is a subject for another time, but Barao got Aldo's blessing so the shift in divisions wouldn't become a problem down the road.
"This was talked between us and Andre Pederneiras, our head coach and the leader of Nova Uniao. We all decided that I should go up to featherweight and this is actually wouldn't be a problem with or without Aldo," Barao said.
This Sunday, Barao will have his first UFC fight at featherweight against Jeremy Stephens at Fight Night on FS1.
And while Barao won't rule out returning to 135 pounds in the future, as of now it doesn't seem likely.
"At this point, I'm totally focused on this fight so right now the answer is no. Because I'm focused on this fight but then after the fight, I'll see what happens and then make a final decision," Barao said.
The Brazilian already seems to be in a happier, healthier place.
"Now, I'm much more explosive, I'm faster, I'm stronger, I don't suffer as much because of cutting weight," Barao said. "Everything is better for me and I think I'm going to only get better from here."
Barao faces Stephens in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night from Las Vegas this Sunday night live on FS1 with the main card starting at 9 p.m. ET.