Mike Easton: Renan Barao Can’t “Babysit” The Belt

UFC bantamweight Mike Easton (13-1, MMA) has been on a tear this year handing defeats to both Ivan Menjivar and Jared Papazian. Easton’s striving to keep the momentum rolling when he takes on his next challenger Raphael Assuncao (17-4, MMA) at UFC on FOX 5 on the FX preliminary card. Easton believes his well-rounded skill set and a win over Assuncao should get him closer to challenging for the bantamweight title.

With a in-your-face fight style that pushes the pace, Easton said he’s one of the most powerful strikers in the bantamweight division. Like every serious competitor, Easton wants to prove to the UFC, fans and everyone in his division that he’s worthy of a title shot. Based on his sparring sessions with teammate Dominick Cruz, Easton knows a fight between the two of them would not only be a high-octane, action-packed bout, but it would make history.

“If you guys could see us spar…man it’s a war every single time. And it’s his style versus my style every time we spar and it’s a good time, and so we enjoy it, we just enjoy training. Of course you know, he’s the champ. If I keep doing my job right, which I am, we’re going to have to face each other. We already know that. And that right there will be history in the making for two teammates to fight for the title. That’s something that’s never, ever been done before and that’s something that me and him are both looking forward to,” Easton said to MMA Fight Corner in an interview.

But Cruz is currently recovering from an ACL injury and there is no set timetable for his return. In the meantime, Brazilian Renan Barao (29-1, 1 NC, MMA) became the UFC’s interim bantamweight champion by defeating Urijah Faber at UFC 149 in July. Almost five months have passed since and Barao hasn’t defended the interim title yet. Though UFC President Dana White said following UFC 154 that they were in talks to have him defend the belt, possibly against Michael McDonald (15-1, MMA), nothing’s transpired yet.

Easton gave his thoughts on the current situation with the bantamweight division:

“Right now, everything that’s happening in the 135 division, it’s like, it’s crazy because you have all these top guys that are fighting each other right now. These guys have to fight each other to see where the placement is. As far as me, I’m just going to do what I have to do, and right now my focus is on my fight for next week. And that’s what I’m focused on and that’s what I’m going to do, that’s my job right now.

“Now, as far as Renan Barao saying he’s going to hold onto the belt and wait – no, he can’t babysit the belt. Me personally, I’m like, ‘No, you can’t do that buddy’. Our job is to fight, our job is to put on a show for the fans – that’s what they pay for and the UFC pays us to fight. So you can’t babysit the belt unless you’re hurt or you’re injured. And if you’re hurt or you’re injured, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to give that belt up and that’s just what it is.

“I agree with Dana White. If Michael McDonald is next in line to fight Renan Barao, well that’s who’s next in line to fight Renan Barao. My chance and opportunity is going to come and you guys are going to definitely see me fight those top of the line guys real soon. That’s just is what it is.

“I’m a patient fellow, I’m not in a rush. I’m enjoying fighting in the UFC and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve had two years off so I’m taking my time and I’m going to enjoy it.”

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