The first thing Brandon Moreno remembered was how heavy his new championship belt was.
“When I felt the weight of the belt on my shoulder, it was so special,” said Moreno, who won the UFC flyweight title last June with a third-round submission of Deiveson Figueiredo. “Then the energy of all the people around the arena, wow, man. After that, interviews, social media was crazy, a lot of travel, media tours. Everything changed. I’m trying to be calm and put some balance in my mind, but definitely everything changed.”
And while one weight was lifted as he defeated the Brazilian in their UFC 263 rematch, culminating a professional mixed martial arts journey that began a decade earlier, another was added, as the first native of Mexico to win a UFC title became a fighter not just representing himself and his family, but an entire nation used to excellence at the top level of combat sports.
“Sometimes I feel all the weight of my country on my shoulders and sometimes that makes me feel scared to disappoint all my people in my country,” said the 28-year-old from Tijuana. “But, at the same time, I feel so much motivation because I’m part of history right now. I don’t care what happens in the future.
"I’m part of history, and in my country, I know I can inspire a lot of the coming generations to start trying to practice this sport. This journey started just with me and my own dreams. But right now, I know I have the opportunity to grow the sport in my country.”
Moreno is right. Nothing that happens from here on out removes him from the history books, and that’s a good place for anyone to be in. That doesn’t mean he’s not as hungry as he once was as he approaches his first title defense on Saturday against a man he’s grown very familiar with in Figueiredo.
The pair’s third fight this weekend in Anaheim is the trilogy many never thought they’d see or, more accurately, thought they needed. But after a 2020 Fight of the Year candidate that ended in a draw, a rematch was very necessary, and this time, Moreno shocked the world.
And with the belt changing hands, Figueiredo earned a shot at taking his crown back, which brings us to Saturday night and some interesting training camp dilemmas for Moreno, who isn’t quite sure to expect from “Deus da Guerra.”
“It’s hard because it’s my first time doing a trilogy with somebody,” he said. “I have so much experience talking about Figueiredo, about his style. In the first fight, we saw the aggressive and crazy Figueiredo, this guy who was trying to kill you with just one punch. In the second fight we saw kind of a smart Figueiredo, very calm, running around the Octagon and trying to use the angles. I don’t know what’s next from him. You can try to figure out what’s gonna happen in the next one, but my job is to go into the gym and work hard.”
What Moreno is sure of is that in the “what have you done for me lately” category, he was the one leaving with a finish and the belt seven months ago.
“I never let this guy free in the Octagon,” said Moreno of the rematch. “I always put pressure and he never got his rhythm and I dominated him. So, at the end of the day, the last fight was a total domination and I just need to be very focused on the goal. My goal is to win the next fight.”
It’s the simplest goal in the world, straight to the point, but also the most important. Because then, the reign of Brandon Moreno over the 125-pound weight class truly begins.
“I’m expecting a better Figueiredo, a hungry guy who’s trying to get the belt again,” he said. “But man, I don’t care. At the end of the day, this belt is mine. Right now, I’m on fire and I’m hungry and I want to keep building a better life for my family.”
Don't miss a single strike of the first pay-per-view of 2022 at UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Main card begins at 10pm ET/7pm PT.
UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane took place on Saturday, January 22, 2022, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.