FRESNO, Calif. – Former WSOF champ Marlon Moraes was a poster boy for his previous organization, but now, he’s just one of the guys. Perfect, says the Brazilian bantamweight.
“I want to be part of the UFC, and I want to work my way up,” Moraes told MMAjunkie. “I’m very happy working my way up. When things come so easy, sometimes you don’t appreciate them.
“I want to work for it. If one day, I become a star, I’m going to say I am, but I worked for it. I’m here because I deserve it.”
Moraes came to the UFC earlier this year on an impressive 13-fight winning streak that included a perfect 11-0 mark in WSOF. But “Magic” hasn’t found the going quite as easy in the sport’s largest promotion, debuting with a split-decision loss to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212 and then edging out a split-decision win over John Dodson at November’s UFC Fight Night 120 event.
Moraes said his first few fights brought exactly what he expected.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” Moraes said. “The UFC is the toughest competition in the world in mixed martial arts. I was in WSOF, and I had a couple of tough fights, but not like UFC. UFC are the best fighters. I’ve had two fights, and two tough opponents.
“I knew it was going to be like that. I knew the UFC, you go out there with somebody, and you never know who is going to win. You’ve just got to be prepared. You’ve got to train hard and perform. With Assuncao, it was a close fight, and he won. With Dodson, it was a close fight, but I won. That’s it. Now I’m ready, and Saturday night, I’m pretty sure I’m going to put on a great performance.”
Saturday is when Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) faces Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.
It will be just four weeks after Moraes’ decision win over Dodson, but the 29-year-old said he was thrilled to get a shot at a quick return when Sterling’s original opponent, Rani Yahya, was forced from the card.
“I was healthy,” Moraes said. “I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s always been my dream to be in the UFC because of that. There’s such a lot of opportunities. You can fight more than three times in a year, more than five if you can. When that opportunity came, I said, ‘Of course I want the fight.’
“I’m healthy. I just fought. I’m in great shape. I’m just going to keep doing what I love. I’m going to keep sparring. Anyway, Saturday, I was going to be in the gym sparring, so now I’m here. I’m going to fight.”
And it’s a big fight in the 135-pound division. Moraes currently sits at No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, while Sterling checks in at No. 12. In the UFC’s official list, both sit in the top-10.
“He’s good everywhere,” Moraes said of his opponent. “He’s a dangerous fighter everywhere in the game – on the ground especially, in the wrestling, on the feet, very sneaky. Man, it’s the UFC; what are you going to expect from an opponent? The best of the best.
“It’s a tough fight for both of us. The one that’s going to be able to capitalize on the other one’s mistakes, that’s who’s going to win.”
It’s a challenging assignment, without a doubt. But facing a ranked opponent on short notice is no bother to Moraes. Quite the opposite, in fact – it’s his ambition.
“I don’t want easy fights,” Moraes said. “I want to be in there with the best guys. I want to have this in my record: ‘Man, he fought this guy. He fought that guy. He fought all the top-10 guys.’ This is what I want. I want to put on a show, I want to fight these guys.
“One day I’m going to have an opportunity to fight up there (for the title), but right now, I”m working my way to the top in the UFC.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Expect more quick turnarounds from Marlon Moraes, who wants hard road to the top