Barao is a legitimate top three pound-for-pound fighter in the world but he is the king of one of the dreaded "lower weight classes," in a down PPV market and doesn't speak English (which matters, regardless of how much we may wish it didn't).
That was the point that Ben Fowlkes tried to make in an article at MMA Junkie titled The Hard Sell: Renan Barao is the world's best fighter:
First Barao was a "monster." Then he was a "killer." Now he’s "the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world," according to White, and just in case you aren’t buying that, he’ll go ahead and bury you with stats. Because nothing gets fans fired up for a title fight quite like math.
It’s hard to blame the UFC too much. On paper, Barao should be a superstar. His unbeaten streak is legitimately impressive, even if the first few years of it came against regional nobodies, and even if White apparently felt the need to fudge some of those numbers when touting Barao’s stats ("The kid hasn’t lost a fight in 35 fights," said White, which isn’t exactly true, since Barao is 32-1 according to Sherdog and 28-1 according to MMA.tv).
But if Barao’s struggle to go big time tells us anything, it might be that skill doesn’t sell as much as we’d like to pretend it does. Not by itself, anyway. Not if it comes wrapped up in the package of a 135-pound fighter who doesn’t speak much English, doesn’t have much in the way of an identifiable personality, and – let’s just be real here – looks a little bit goofy.
To White, the headline was all he needed to read before he got upset and claimed that it was another case of someone "saying stupid shit to get hits:"
@benfowlkesMMA if you don't know how good Renan is u should cover another sport— Dana White (@danawhite) May 20, 2014
@ltw0303 bully, these idiots say stupid shit to get hits. No more journalists— Dana White (@danawhite) May 20, 2014
@LenBarson I don't read any of them— Dana White (@danawhite) May 20, 2014