Marlon Moraes is too nice to laugh out loud when he hears other fighters talk about eight-week training camps, but he may chuckle to himself when the topic comes up.
“A lot of people travel everywhere for training,” he said. “I traveled and I never came back. I’m still in training camp. I’m in training camp for eight years. And now it’s time to chase my dream and get the UFC belt.”
An eight-year training camp sounds extreme, but in reality, Moraes has been chasing gold in one way, shape or form for that long, opting to leave his home in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to join his friend Edson Barboza and go after his dreams.
“When he was signed to the UFC, he gave me a call,” said Moraes of Barboza. “He said, ‘You want to come here? I know you want to be a fighter.’ He got me a job teaching kickboxing and a room to stay. So nine years ago I moved to Florida and started to train there. That’s all I needed: a job and a place to stay.”
Things weren’t easy for Moraes in those early days, though, and by the time Thanksgiving of 2011 rolled around, the Brazilian’s record stood at 5-4-1. But then came the aforementioned training camp that began eight years ago when “Magic” Marlon followed Barboza to New Jersey and started working with the likes of Mark Henry, Ricardo Almeida, Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez.
“For me as a young guy, fighting was just get in there and whoever’s the toughest guy is gonna win,” Moraes said. “But he (Henry) taught me it’s not just about being a tough fighter; you have to be a smart fighter. These guys have got me as a smart fighter and I’m well-rounded. I can fight anywhere.”
Since his fourth pro loss at the hands of Deividas Taurosevicius in 2011, Moraes has gone 17-1, with the only loss a split decision against Raphael Assuncao in 2017 that he avenged via submission in February. In other words, Moraes is one of the best bantamweights in the world right now, and he’s five rounds or less away from the being the best, should he defeat Henry Cejudo in the main event of UFC 238 this weekend. And even though Cejudo enters Saturday’s bout as the more decorated of the two thanks to his Olympic gold medal and UFC flyweight title belt, Moraes is not worried in the slightest about facing “The Messenger.”
“My team gets me ready for anything,” said Moraes. “He (Cejudo) can have his Olympic medal in wrestling, but I have an Olympic medal in MMA. I’m good everywhere, I can fight everywhere and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna beat this guy June 8th.”
It’s as close as Moraes will come to pre-fight gamesmanship with Cejudo, who has embraced the role as instigator on the way to Saturday night. Needless to say, Moraes is not impressed, but he’s choosing to do his talking in the Octagon.
“He’s nervous and his anxiety is trying to make him promote this fight like that,” said Moraes. “He doesn’t have to promote this way. Everybody knows who I am. I’m a killer. I’m gonna go in there with a mission to put him out. Everybody knows that and everybody wants to watch a fight like that.”
Moraes reputation has been well-established for years, back to when he was dominating as the World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion. But after losing his UFC debut to Assuncao and winning a split decision over John Dodson, he’s been dispatching foes with a frightening finality. First it was Aljamain Sterling in 67 seconds, then Jimmie Rivera in 33. Assuncao made it to 3:17 in their rematch, but not a second longer.
That win made it four in a row for the 31-year-old and while he was clearly in the title picture, when TJ Dillashaw vacated his title after failing a drug test following a loss to Cejudo in January, Moraes found himself in a title fight against Cejudo.
“We’re fighting for the vacant belt because the champion had a problem and here I am to resolve it,” Moraes said. “I’m gonna resolve this problem and now we’re gonna have a current champion and a guy to hold the division.”
Sounds like Moraes thinks a win on Saturday night is a done deal. Yeah, he’s not backing down from that.
“He (Cejudo) is a very good wrestler and he’s the UFC flyweight champion,” said Moraes. “He beat Demetrious Johnson, he beat TJ Dillashaw, but he never fought Marlon Moraes.”
So what would Marlon Moraes, UFC champion, look like?
“There’s new blood in the show right now, and that’s me,” he said. “I’m here to hold this division. A lot of guys complain too much that they don’t have a chance, but relax, the chance is gonna come. I’m an active guy, I’m not gonna say no to fights and the UFC knows. They’re gonna keep calling me and I’m gonna keep showing up and I’m gonna keep knocking them out.”
Would it be safe to say that Cejudo jumping up from flyweight to bantamweight isn’t a good call, then?
“It’s a bad decision for him,” Moraes said. “Bad fight for him, bad matchup. It’s good for the UFC. I don’t know what the UFC’s plan is, but I love it. I love being in the position to go in the cage with Henry Cejudo and beat him up.”