On the day Marlon Moraes signed with the UFC he immediately became one of the most watched fighters on the roster and he wants to get to the top and he wants to do it quickly.
With a 13 fight win streak including a long run as the World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion, Moraes was a coveted free agent pick up for the UFC but he also knew his reputation might make it tougher to find him an opponent.
Rather than hand pick the first fighter he’d face inside the Octagon, Moraes just threw out an open challenge and waited for the UFC to find anybody willing to step into the cage to challenge him.
Ultimately, No. 3 ranked bantamweight Raphael Assuncao was chosen as his opponent for UFC 212 this weekend in Brazil and Moraes is excited for the chance to showcase what he can do on the biggest stage in the world.
“I think people are already avoiding me. It makes no sense to me because I’m outside the UFC rankings. After my fight with Raphael, it’s going to be great. I’m going to put on a performance and I don’t know what these guys are going to do,” Moraes told the Fight Society podcast. “It’s going to be a very good fight.
“I’m very, very excited to go out there and show to everybody that those people who have been saying things about me outside the UFC, now what? I’m here.”
One thing that Moraes wanted to make clear after inking his deal with the UFC is that he will never hand pick opponents or ask for anyone by name just to earn him a higher profile fight.
Instead, Moraes prefers to let the UFC give him the toughest possible opponents, which is why he was so happy to get the fight with Assuncao because he’s an established veteran who holds a number of wins over top 10 ranked fighters in the bantamweight division.
With a win over Assuncao on Saturday night, Moraes would establish himself as one of the top bantamweights in the UFC after only one fight and that’s exactly the message he wants to send to all the other fighters at 135 pounds, including current champion Cody Garbrandt.
“Since day one, me and Mark [Henry] my head coach, we always talk and I’m not going to the UFC to be in the UFC. If it’s just that, I wasn’t going out there. My goal is to go there and get the belt,” Moraes said.
“I don’t want to pick opponents. I don’t want to say I want to do one fight and then fight for the title. I want to fight and I want to fight and I want to fight.
“Whatever they think I deserve. This is my goal, my goal is the title. I want to get there and I’m going to fight however many times that they want. I’m not going to choose opponents. I’m going to fight. My goal is the title and I know I’m going to get it.”
Strong words from a fighter just making his debut, but Moraes isn’t worried about not living up to expectations because he truly believes he’s just now entering the prime of his career and the UFC will get the best out of him in the next few years.
As far as the infamous Octagon jitters, Moraes has already faced plenty of tough opposition before not to mention the murderer’s row of training partners he spars with everyday from Frankie Edgar to Eddie Alvarez to Edson Barboza.
Moraes knows the crowd in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro will be raucous and the lights might be a little brighter, but once the cage door closes he only has to worry about one thing and that’s Raphael Assuncao.
“When that door closes it’s A,B and C. That’s when you’re fighting and I started fighting when I was nine [years old],” Moraes explained.
“Every time is the same. You’ve just got to separate it. You can’t let the outside get inside. I’ve been good with this. I’m not surprised and I’m not scared. I just want to be there. I know I belong there. I’m in the mix. I think everybody has a chance and I’m going to have my chance and I’m going to take it.”
Moraes faces Assuncao in the featured prelim at UFC 212 on the weekend.