01 Jan Raoni Barcelos: Top-15 bantamweights are ‘afraid to take risks’ against non-ranked fighters like himself
One of the longest layoffs of Raoni Barcelos’ MMA career finally ends Saturday, when the Brazilian bantamweight prospect faces Khalid Taha in the main card of UFC Vegas 13 at the UFC APEX.
Barcelos hasn’t competed since December 2019, when he handed Said Nurmagomedov his first octagon defeat to improve to 4-0 in the promotion. A protege under Pedro Rizzo in Rio de Janeiro, Barcelos was booked to face Cody Stamann in one of the many cards canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic back in March.
Victorious in his last eight MMA bouts—winning and defending the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featherweight title in the process—Barcelos is “ready to go in there and get the homework done” despite not facing someone in the top-15, which was his plan from the get-go.
“I was going to fight a top-10 after my fight with Said, but unfortunately the fight didn’t happen. We were waiting for a top-10,” Barcellos said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “This fight will happen and I’m happy about it, but, with everything going my way, I can ask for a top-10 or top-5 next and prove to myself that I can fight the best and one day become the champion of this weight class.”
Taha, his opponent Saturday night, has a mixed record in three octagon appearances with one win, one loss and a no contest, the latter courtesy of a failed drug test following a fight with Bruno Silva. That doesn’t mean, however, that Barcelos expects an easy night in the office.
“Everybody in the UFC is a good athlete,” he said. “The ranking is just a number, many people outside the top-15 has what it takes to get there, my case included. Khalid is very tough, aggressive, and it’ll be a beautiful fight.”
That said, Barcelos hopes that those listed among the 15 best in the division agree to share the cage with him in 2021.
“I have no doubt that those in the rankings really are afraid to take risks,” Barcelos said, “But those outside (the top-15) need to be in there to be seen by Sean Shelby, Dana (White) and the rest of the world. Many people never watched me in the UFC, and UFC fans will have the opportunity to see me now. I can put on a good showing in there to fight the best there.”
Barcelos believes that “just showing my work inside the cage” will be enough to get noticed by the fans, but promises to have a name to call out in his post-fight interview. “I’ll show what I can do and, if possible, get the finish. I’m going after the knockout, but I’ll tap him if he makes a mistake.”