• UFC London

Barao: McDonald just like Pickett

ESPN staff
January 31, 2013
Renan Barao will feed off the crowd in London © Getty Images

Renan Barao feels confident he will defend his UFC interim bantamweight belt at UFC London, because his opponent is "similar" to the man he beat on his last visit to the UK: Brad Pickett.

Barao heads to Wembley Arena on February 16 as the No. 1 active fighter in the 135lb division. Champion Dominick Cruz is on a long injury layoff, so Barao is the division's figurehead.

To maintain that status he has to beat prodigious young talent Michael McDonald, who is coming off an explosive knockout of Miguel Torres and has lost once in his 16-fight pro career.

When Barao last fought in England he wiped out Pickett with a first-round rear naked choke, having dropped the Brit with a well-timed knee. The Brazilian, who trains with his idol Jose Also, insists McDonald will be a very similar test.

"They have the same gameplan, they both have powerful hands, but Michael is a little taller with a bigger reach. That's the difference," Barao told ESPN.

"But they're both similar fighters, very similar styles, they're both very talented."

Barao is driven by the fear of losing everything he has worked for in life, having risen from financial hardship to help his family to a better life. In London he said that motivation, plus the roar of the fans, will see him to victory.

"I think about how much I've worked to get to where I am, I think about my family. This is my life, my career, and nobody is taking it away from me," he said.

"I have great memories [of the UK], I was able to walk around, eat at nice restaurants, and the crowd were very respectful and had a great energy. I really want the positive energy of the crowd, it's amazing and to have a few more on my side will make a huge difference this time."

Asked if he will continue to defend his interim belt after fighting McDonald, Barao said he is prepared to do so - if Cruz remains sidelined: "I really hope to fight Dominick [next], but if I have to fight somebody else and defend the belt again, I will do it."

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