UFC Orlando: Brian Kelleher Believes TJ Dillashaw Took Renan Barao's Soul

UFC Orlando: Brian Kelleher Believes TJ Dillashaw Took Renan Barao's Soul

UFC bantamweight Brian Kelleher discusses his upcoming UFC on Fox 28 scrap vs. Renan Barao in Orlando.

Feb 22, 2018 by Hunter Homistek
UFC Orlando: Brian Kelleher Believes TJ Dillashaw Took Renan Barao's Soul

UFC bantamweight Brian Kelleher looks to capitalize on his big win at UFC Fight Night 118 in October as he takes on Renan Barao at UFC on Fox 28 in Orlando, Florida, this Saturday. 

Kelleher knocked out Damian Stasiak late in the third round to record his second victory in three tries inside the Octagon. The finish was nothing new for Kelleher. With eight submissions and seven knockouts on his record, the Oceanside, New York, native has shown throughout his career that he’s dangerous from the first second right down to the very last.

“I went in there with the mentality that I was going to kill, that I was going to go in there and perform to the best of my ability and let everything go, to have no hesitations,” Kelleher told FloCombat. “I knew Damian was a tough guy. I knew he wasn't going to go away easily, but I believe in my killer instinct and my ability to finish guys. 

"My power is there. It might not look like I do [have it] but I can feel it. These guys feel it when I'm in there. I broke him in the third round. It was just that pressure and that persistence that got me the win.”

The UFC rewarded Kelleher for the victory and offered him Barao, a former champion who was at one time considered among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. With such a distinguished name on the table, the New Yorker didn’t have to think twice when the contract landed in his inbox. 

“It's like every other fight — it's just 'yes,' there is no question,” Kelleher said. “It's just 100 percent confidence. I was obviously excited to hear the name. He was somebody who I thought they might want to match me up with, being that he's coming off of a few losses and I know he probably wants to bounce back so he's willing to fight anybody that they offer. So I figured it was a good matchup, and here we are.”

For Kelleher, the fight was a reward for all his hard work over the years. Kelleher made his professional MMA debut in 2011, the same year Barao made his UFC debut.

“As I was coming up, I was watching this guy as world champion," Kelleher said. "Sometimes it feels surreal, but I also have a high level of self-belief and I'm ready to fight this guy, beat this guy, and take his name. That's what I'm looking forward to.”

Barao’s been on an unfortunate run since he lost his belt to TJ Dillashaw back in 2014. The Brazilian has gone 2-3 since losing his strap, bouncing between bantamweight and featherweight in the process.

“I think TJ took a little bit of his soul,” Kelleher said. “I think getting beat like that and getting dominated... it can take a lot out of you. You have to find yourself mentally. This game is very mental. It's a psychological thing. You have to find yourself in the cage, not only physically but mentally.

"And maybe TJ broke him in that area and you see it in his performances after that fight. It's a different kind of Barao in there. I'm not expecting that guy. I'm expecting a killer. I'm expecting a guy who believes he's going to take me out. I think he's coming in there to take my head off and regain his name.”

Put plainly, Kelleher isn't preparing for the 2-3 Barao.

“Everyone in the UFC is tough, [and] no matter what, every fight's different,” Kelleher said. “I'm heading to the cage ready to fight the best Barao that's ever been. I know he's had some downfalls, but we all have those and you can never underestimate anybody. 

"As far as my skills go, I'm confident everywhere. I believe in my power, I believe in my pressure, and I believe in my cardio. I'm bringing a high level of conditioning into this fight, and I'm prepared to break him.”

Part of Kelleher’s preparation means he’s ready to get the victory in any way possible. Even though some fighters have a tendency to fade as the fight goes on, Kelleher believes he only becomes more dangerous.

“I never know what's going to happen in these fights,” Kelleher said. “Sometimes, my coaches, they want to look into these guys' film and I appreciate that. I'm not much of a film watcher myself. I've seen a couple of Barao's fights, but in the end, every fight's different. What if he throws a left high kick instead of a right leg kick? You just have to be prepared for everything. That's what I feel, I'm prepared for anything and everything in there. 

"I'm always going for the finish. I believe towards the later rounds he tends to fade away and I tend to grow stronger. So I can see a late finish in this fight as well, whether it be a TKO or submission.”

By Lucas Grandsire