The first thing apparent about Maryna Moroz in her UFC debut against Joanne Calderwood in April was her confidence. Then her striking. Then her ground game. By then, 90 seconds into the fight, it was over.
That’s a debut you don’t forget.
“I acted according to a complicated plan, and my plan was fulfilled,” Moroz said through translator Ekaterina Kovalenko. “My coach (Serhii Zakolyaev) is highly pleased with such a result.”
He should be. But it’s not like the unbeaten 23-year-old walked out of the Octagon in Krakow, Poland surprised by the outcome against the highly-touted Scottish strawweight. For Moroz, this is simply what can happen at this level, especially when fighting her, and if you overlook her or come into the fight at less than one hundred percent mentally and / or physically, there’s a price to pay.
“I train in earnest for every fight, especially my UFC debut,” Moroz said. “Joanne Calderwood did not understand that, so most probably she lost as a result. When I come to the Octagon I focus on combat, not on housekeeping. UFC is a field for professional athletes, for the best fighters, so you can`t underestimate your opponent – it has a bad ending.”
Already mentioned was Moroz’ confidence in facing a more experienced foe, the striking that stunned the Muay Thai ace, and the ground game that finished the fight via armbar. What happened after she vanquished Calderwood is what may lift her from prospect to star. And that’s the swagger of the “Iron Lady.” Simply put, no one calls out the champion of their division after their first fight. Maryna Moroz did, jumping on top of the Octagon to point at and address strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
“I am set for fights with each of the fighters from my division, but the title belt will be mine,” she said, clearly not backing down from her words after the Calderwood bout. “Saying the truth increases my responsibility, and it means more hard training and strict nutrition discipline. But that`s just a small price to pay to take part in UFC fighting.”
So what would a bout with Poland’s “Joanna Champion” look like?
“Jedrzejczyk is a great puncher, and a good battle is expected,” Moroz said. “But let her meet with another great puncher and let her try true Ukrainian boxing. It will be the Fight of the Year when the strongest meets the strongest.”
But first, there’s Canadian veteran Valerie Letourneau waiting for Moroz this Sunday in Saskatoon. Fighting outside of Europe is no issue for her, as she has also competed in China and Brazil as a pro MMA fighter, and when it comes to having the comforts of home surrounding her as far as a fan base, the Volnogorsk native admits that her country hasn’t yet come around like the rest of the world has.
“Nobody recognizes me in Ukraine,” she said. “Ukraine doesn’t care a bean about my success. I have more fans in Russia and USA then in Ukraine. Only foreign fans recognize me.”
For now. That’s likely to change as the wins pile up and more people get to see how good Moroz - a member of the Ukrainian National boxing team whose accolades include Master of Sport recognition in boxing and kickboxing - really is. Especially since she competes in MMA – which has spearheaded the women’s movement in combat sports - and not in her first love, boxing.
“Boxing was part of my life, but when I first saw the UFC fights I realized my new dream,” Moroz said. “UFC became my aim from that day. MMA makes feel like a gladiator when just one rule exists – win or die. That is why I love MMA.”
And MMA is loving her back, to the tune of six wins, no losses, and six finishes. Maryna Moroz has found a home, and she’s not leaving without a gold belt around her waist.
“I want to capture all UFC fans’ hearts,” she said. “Let them know that if Maryna Moroz comes into the Octagon, there is no compromise. There is only one winner. As we say ‘when I know my goal, I know no limit.’”