“We can’t have a perfect fight camp,” joked Sarah Moras. “It just doesn’t happen.”
The notion of a “perfect fight camp” is a figment of the imagination in the fight game — an elusive abstract that no one has ever really experienced. It’s the fight prep equivalent of the Sasquatch — a bunch of people think it’s real and swear they’ve seen it, but everyone else kind of understands that it’s not really real and chasing after it would be futile.
Every fight camp is flush with issues, from injuries and illness to opponent switches and personal issues stealing away your focus, and one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to navigate them while continuing to move forward and delivering the best performance possible.
In the month leading up to her return to the cage in Ottawa this weekend, Moras has faced a couple different challenges — one that is unfortunately fairly standard issue and another that took the legs right out from under her just as she was wrapping up camp.
Initially booked to face TUF 28 alum Leah Letson, the British Columbia native will instead square off with Macy Chiasson, who beat Letson in the semifinals of last season’s featherweight competition before becoming the latest addition to the roll call of Ultimate Fighter winners last December with a second-round submission win over Pannie Kianzad.
Three months later, the Fortis MMA product dropped down a division, returned to the cage and scored a first-round stoppage win over one of Moras’ teammates at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Gina Mazany, to push her record to 4-0 and establish herself as one of the top prospects on the female side of the sport.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting back in there,” said Moras, who enters Saturday’s contest looking to snap a two-fight skid. “She’s not a southpaw, so I’ve had to switch some things up, but I feel pretty confident wherever this fight goes.”
While the first of the curveballs she faced while preparing to step into the cage this weekend was of the variety every fighter expects to encounter at some point in their journey, the other was more like the type Clayton Kershaw throws that leave hitters frozen, unsure of what to do as the bottom drops out and the umpire signals a strike.
A few days before breaking camp and departing Las Vegas for the Canadian capital, Moras received word that her grandfather had passed away.
“I don’t really live close to my family, so it has been a lot harder with my family,” said Moras, who moved to Las Vegas from Kelowna, British Columbia about a year ago and whose family resides in Chilliwack, about 90 minutes east of Vancouver. “It really sucks that I’m not able to be there.
“I knew he wasn’t doing so well, so I was planning to go right after my fight. I’ll still go and see my family and support them, but unfortunately I won’t get to see him.
“My grandpa has had Alzheimer’s for a while now, so as sad as it is and as hard as it is on my family, it’s probably better for him,” she added. “It sucks for all of us, unfortunately, so I’ve tried to focus on the positives, like that he’s not suffering any more, but it’s still sad because I really wanted to see him again. We were really close when I was younger.”
What makes the two curveballs Moras has been forced to contend with heading into this weekend’s fight card a little tougher than normal is that they’ve come in advance of arguably the most important fight of her career and right when the semifinalist from Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter felt like things were starting to fall into place.
After a number of years of training at Toshido Martial Arts in Kelowna, Moras opted to make the move to Las Vegas just a few months prior to her October fight with Talita Bernardo in Moncton, New Brunswick, where she came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict for the second straight fight.
Now more familiar with her surroundings and having built a rapport with her coaches, the 5-5 bantamweight was gearing up to go to Ottawa and turn in the best performance of her career.
“I was in Las Vegas for my last fight, but I had only been there a few months,” explained Moras, who was further motivated to make the move to the desert after visiting the UFC Performance Institute during last year’s Athlete’s Retreat. “Now I’ve been there almost a year and I’ve developed so many more skills.
“I’ve been training the whole time, in and out of fight camp; I’m just in there constantly learning. Dennis Davis has been absolutely amazing — he’s just such a great coach — and I can’t believe how much I’ve grown since moving here.
“(The Performance Institute) is a seven-minute drive from the gym and a seven-minute drive from our house,” she added. “So we just go from the house to the gym to the PI, back to the gym, back to the PI, back to our house. Sometimes we hit up the PI three or four times a day.”
While the twin curveballs she’s faced have each forced her to briefly pause and reset, Moras is still set on venturing into the Octagon and delivering the type of performance she expected to have back when training camp was moving along perfectly.
“I expect her to be a really tough opponent; I’m not taking her lightly and she shouldn’t take me lightly either,” she said of Chiasson. “I think it’s going to be a fight, but obviously I think I’m better in every area and I’m looking forward to showing it on Saturday night.”
And if she emerges victorious, as planned, there will be tears.
“I think I generally cry more when I win rather than when I lose; I’m one of those weirdos,” she said with a laugh. “I’m so excited for it. I just can’t wait.”