As Aldo (24-1) prepares for a seventh 145-pound title defense against Chad Mendes at UFC 179 on Saturday, reasons for him and Barao (32-2) to move up in weight have arguably never been clearer.
For Aldo, 28, this weekend will mark the first rematch of his career. Should he continue to win, it would be the first of many. With the exception of Conor McGregor, Aldo has already defeated every highly ranked UFC featherweight.
Both Nova Uniao fighters committed themselves to their respective weight classes when they signed with the WEC (Aldo in 2008, Barao in 2010). Both did so under the advisement of their shared coach, Andre Pederneiras. Despite dealing with notoriously difficult weight cuts, Aldo has dominated his division, while Barao won an interim title in 2012 and the official title earlier this year.
For years, though, Aldo has said he's ready for a move to lightweight -- but Pederneiras won't sign off on it. That decision trickles down to Barao, who would certainly move up to featherweight if his teammate wasn't there. The situation came to a potential head this summer, when Barao fainted while trying to make 135 pounds for a title fight against TJ Dillashaw and was pulled from the event.
Aldo and Barao have fought in the higher weight classes before. At 28 and 27 years old, respectively, they are still young, but history says weight will only become harder to cut as they close in on their 30s. And if they do move up, each would be in immediate title contention -- with an opportunity to win a second UFC belt and increase his marketability.
Yet, heading into Aldo's 15th consecutive fight at 145 pounds, the champion says long-term plans are to keep everything exactly as it is.
"Those talks were stronger in the past," Aldo told ESPN.com. "I don't know what happened along the way, but right now, I feel like my weight class has improved a little and there is a lot of competition at 145."
UFC WEIGHT DIVISIONS
Fighters must weigh in more than the class below their own, but no more than their own class to compete.
Aldo, who knocked out Mendes in the first round of a title defense in January 2012, said he's mentally prepared himself for a wave of rematches (with the obvious exception of McGregor, who has taken the MMA world by storm and will be in Rio de Janeiro for Aldo's fight this weekend).
Considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Aldo said that in addition to not minding rematches, another reason that talk of 155 pounds has cooled is that his weight cut has improved.
The Brazilian has long said his weight between fights is around 170 pounds. That actually makes his cut far more manageable than that of Barao, who recently said he drops approximately 10 kilograms (or 22 pounds) to make bantamweight, which would mean the two are relatively close to the same size, naturally.
Aldo says that figure of 170 pounds has remained constant, dating back to when he won the WEC title at age 23. As his weight-cutting methods have become more sophisticated, Aldo says it's actually become far easier, rather than more difficult, to cut the weight as he ages.
"The last time I made weight, it was pretty much effortless," Aldo said. "I think the change has to do with how much I was losing on weigh-in day. I used to lose about three kilos [6.5 pounds]. Now, I lose about half that.
"I could even make 135 pounds, I believe, but that's not a plan in my career."
Nova Uniao's weight-cutting practices have drawn attention this year thanks (mostly) to the Barao situation, but Pederneiras has defended the camp's methods. In an interview with Sherdog.com, Pederneiras said the camp's program has even been looked at by Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, one of the top universities in Brazil.
As much sense as it might seem to make for Aldo and Barao to move up, one can't argue with results. With a win on Saturday, Aldo would move within three title defenses of tying former middleweight champion Anderson Silva's UFC record of 10 consecutive. Despite years of teasing a move to 155, it now appears that number is one Aldo has his sights set on.
"I think a lot of people talk about Nova Uniao's process, but no one is there in the gym to see what our team offers," Aldo said. "So, people really don't know what they're talking about.
"I think something just went wrong [with Barao]. I wasn't there to see it firsthand, and I haven't gone into the details about it with him because he's very upset about it. The guy has always made weight. He's been on top of that kind of stuff for a long time."