Sergio Moraes and Ben Saunders had nice teaching moment – but jury's still out on training together

SAO PAULO – At Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 137, Ben Saunders suffered an unfortunate MMA career first: Thanks to grappling ace Sergio Moraes, he tapped out for the first time.

Saunders (22-10-2 MMA, 10-7 UFC) could have, understandably, chosen to mope over it. Instead, the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu product chose to approach Moraes (14-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) with a request.

“(Saunders) said, ‘You’re very tight. It’s no wonder you’re a three-time jiu-jitsu world champion,’” Moraes said of the post-fight conversation he had with Saunders, while still in the octagon at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo. “Then he said, ‘I’m going to go train with you.’ I said, ‘You can come.’”

Saunders wasn’t just saying that. The next day, he re-posted a backstage video of Moraes walking him through the arm-triangle choke that put a second-round end to their UFC Fight Pass-streamed welterweight encounter. (via Instagram)

Instagram Photo

The video soon made the rounds online as a commendable showing of respect by both men, reminiscent of the time when Neil Magny attended a seminar by fellow 170-pound standout Demian Maia after being submitted in their own octagon encounter.

Whether that can translate to a long-term training partnership, though, is a whole different story. Asked whether there could seriously be a training exchange between the two in the future, Moraes didn’t entirely dismiss it, but expressed that his team-oriented mentality might make it difficult for something to come together.

“I don’t usually do this information exchange,” Moraes said. “I’m a guy who really wears the team’s jersey. I think (soccer team) Palmeiras doesn’t train at Corinthians, Corinthians doesn’t train at Sao Paulo, and that’s what makes the sport great. It doesn’t make sense to have a team and train at your home. It makes no sense. You trust what you think works, and you stick with it.

“I won’t go to his gym to train. If one day he wants to go train at mine, I don’t think (coach Andre Dida) will make room for the camp. Either he becomes part of Evolucao (Thai) or he doesn’t train.”

For one of the two, the night didn’t end in a first-time occurrence; Moraes had used his well-known jiu-jitsu chops to finish opponents before. It had been a while, though: Moraes’ last submission win had been in 2013, in a UFC 163 encounter with Magny.

As he said after the fight, Moraes believes he has the best jiu-jitsu in the division. And becoming the first one to tap out a fellow black belt is certainly a nice way of showing it. But why did it take so long for “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” finalist to return to that?

“Nowadays I know that, many times, the fight doesn’t go to the ground,” Moraes said. “And I had to show improvement in my striking. I demanded that from myself. I lost the TUF Finale because I couldn’t strike. I fought like schoolyard fights, for the lunch. Not now, now I’m aware of what I’m doing on the feet. It’s different now. I’ve learned that I have evolved in that.

“I am capable of striking with anyone. I have beaten opponents on the feet who are professionals there, who can knock anyone out. Now I want to see who can go to the ground with me.”

Considering we’re dealing with the UFC’s 170-pound division, there’s one guy who comes to mind. That is, of course, Maia, a former title challenger who’s widely hailed as the UFC fighter who most successfully adapted his lauded grappling game to the octagon.

When it comes to jiu-jitsu, Moraes says he and Maia were from different times and, therefore, never got to compete on the mat. But it would be “an honor” if it could happen in the octagon.

If this fight gets booked, I’ll come to Sao Paulo to train with (Alliance leader) Fabio Gurgel,” Moraes said. “I’ll do just ground and we’ll put together a beautiful ground show.

“It would be interesting. But it’s always respectfully, when I talk about Demian, because it’s a guy who’s been around for a very long time. A few times, I said it was very possible that Demian and I fought. I said that, but depending on how my fights went. So I have a lot of respect for Demian. But if the UFC thinks it’s time, I’m ready, and I hope Demian is, too.”

Whether Maia ends up being next or not, though, Moraes knows one thing about his hopes for the future.

“I expect fights with ranked guys,” Moraes said. “That’s what I’m asking. I’m not here, you know, asking because, ‘Oh, I need that.’ No, I deserve it. I’ve always kept quiet when I did fights I didn’t like. I was quiet, if it wasn’t a good performance. But come on, I’ve fought top-5 athletes – for instance, Neil Magny, who was going to fight (Alex Oliveira). And I submitted him, five years ago. I’ve only lost once. I’ve had another 10 fights in the UFC since. I deserve to be among the best in the world. I am one of the best in the world.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 137, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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