The former UFC Bantamweight champion Renan Barão will finally make his return. This time however, it will not be at Bantamweight. Barão is making the official move up to Featherweight where he will face Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens in his divisional debut at UFC Fight Night 88 as reported first by Brazilian media Combate.
Barão (33-3, 8-2 in UFC) won the Interim UFC Bantamweight title back in July of 2013 after defeating Urijah Faber at UFC 149. Barao was a replacement for champion Dominick Cruz who pulled out of the bout with Faber due to injury. After winning the Interim title Barao successfully defended the title once against Michael “Mayday” McDonald and Eddie Wineland before Cruz would be stripped of the title in early 2014, making Barão the official champion at 135, where he successfully defended the title once more against Faber with a first round TKO victory. Barão has since suffered two title losses to TJ Dillashaw where Barão was finished due to strikes on both occasions.
Throughout Renan Barão’s reign at Bantamweight, the only legitimate controversy that followed the Brazilian was his weight cutting methods. Barão openly admitted the level of difficulty it took to make weight at 135 and even pulled out of a headlining bout at UFC 177 due to his weight cut putting him out of action medically.
Stephens (24-12, 11-11 in UFC), who is ranked at No. 9 in the UFC’s official rankings, is looking to gain some momentum back after going 1-3 in his last four. Stephen’s lone win in that time comes against top-ranked Dennis Bermudez while he has dropped fights to Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira and Max Holloway.
UFC Fight Night 88, as of press time, does not have an official place or venue scheduled. However, the event is confirmed to take place in the country of Brazil on May 29. No other bouts have been added to the card.