Many thought Brandon Moreno was next in line for a shot at the UFC belt, but those plans were spoiled by a fighter from a weight class above.
The UFC flyweight title contender was considered by many the next challenger for newly crowned champion Deiveson Figueiredo. Not only is Moreno ranked second in the division, but the No. 1-ranked fighter is coming off two losses to the champion, and Figueiredo had expressed interest in Moreno after capturing the belt.
But instead of fighting for gold, Moreno (17-5-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC) takes on Alex Perez at UFC 255 on Nov. 21 – the same card at which Figueiredo defends his belt against former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.
Moreno thinks he was next in line and is confident Garbrandt is aware he didn’t deserve the opportunity to fight for the flyweight title.
“I know that he needs to talk and do his thing in the media to show his confidence, but I know in his mind he knows he doesn’t deserve any of this,” Moreno said in Spanish on Monday’s episode of Hablemos MMA. “He was knocked out horribly, and it wasn’t any knockout or a TKO – it was an effective knockout. Like, the guy fell unconscious to the ground horribly, and the medics and his cornermen had to wake up that f*cker because he was dead. He was unconscious bad. And that was three times in a row – three times in a row. His brain can’t be too healthy.
“Then he goes against Rapahel Assuncao. And I respect Assuncao a lot, but he’s not the same fighter that beat T.J. Dillashaw. Little by little, we’ve seen a decline in Raphael Assuncao’s career. So, good that he won that fight and broke that losing streak, but he wasn’t in any position to deserve anything at bantamweight, flyweight or anywhere. But we go back to the same thing: The UFC wants to sell pay-per-views, and who was has a bigger name? Cody Garbrandt.
“The casual fan forgets what happens in the career of fighters, and they just look at the present. And that’s OK. But let’s see him make the weight. He says he’s always very light, and I don’t think he’ll miss weight. I think he’ll make it. But changing a division is always hard. Even when I fought at 135 pounds and went down to 125, I thought that it was going to be super easy, and I missed weight. So you have to see how your body reacts to changing divisions.”
Garbrandt has never competed at 125 pounds. He’s coming off an impressive knockout won over Assuncao at UFC 250 in June. Prior to that, Garbrandt was on a three-fight skid with knockout losses to Pedro Munhoz and two to Dillashaw.
Moreno is no longer upset at getting skipped over by Garbrandt and is now focusing on Perez. However, the Mexican does admit the news stung at first since it would have been an opportunity to make history for his country.
“I think it’s obvious – I think it’s obvious the UFC’s decision,” Moreno explained. “What happened here is a strategy the UFC uses a lot – and, yeah, it hurts. In different occasions when they apply that type of situation with an American or a Brazilian, there’s many fighters representing those countries, so you go, ‘Ah, OK. That sucks for the fighter, but oh well.’
“But in this scenario for me, for my country of Mexico, we’re battling little by little to go up on the big stages and the big positions inside the major promotions, so it hurts. It hurts because we’ve never had a champion. And yes, we’ve had the Mexican-American fighters who are proud of their blood, but we’ve never had a 100 percent Mexican fighter to fight for the title and much less become champion. So I think in that area, it was felt more. It hurt more on a national level.”
“The Assassin Baby” understands why the UFC ultimately went with Garbrandt and holds nothing against the promotion. He did get a new contract from the UFC and he’s happy with the deal since he’s now making more money.
“It was a fact that I deserved it, and it was a fact that Cody Garbrandt didn’t deserve it,” Moreno said. “I don’t take it personal on any level and I understand that I don’t move the needle like Garbrandt. Garbrandt is not a superstar, but I know he does have more followers and he’s a former champion at bantamweight, so I didn’t take it personal.
“At the moment, it did hurt me, of course. But each day that scenario was getting stronger, so it made it easier to cope with because it was likely that they were going to take the fight away from me. And that’s OK. I always try to stay focused, stay centered, and have the most positive outlook because if I focus on negative thoughts and be mad, I don’t think I’m going to achieve anything.”