On a 15-fight UFC 283 card in Rio de Janeiro, the focus is understandably on the Brazilians making the walk to the Octagon in front of their home country fans. But what of those local heroes that had to go abroad in order to chase their fighting dreams, like Indaiatuba’s Thiago Moises, who has made his home in Florida since 2018, with his visits to the States for training camps going back a decade.
For him, being back on familiar soil for the first time in a year means a little more.
“To be honest with you, I cannot wait to be back in Brazil because there is one year that I don't go back home,” said Moises, who faces Melquizael Costa this weekend. “So I'm very excited to go there. Just being there, the atmosphere, the people, they are very friendly, very happy people. So I miss that a lot and I miss my family so much. And the last time I fought in Rio in 2019 was amazing. People were screaming, and it's crazy energy. The place is packed from the first fight and they love fighting. So I'm very happy to be fighting there and I think it's been two or three years that I don't fight in front of the public because I was fighting in the (UFC) APEX. So I'm very excited to fight with a full house.”
If it seems like a lifetime ago since Moises last competed in Brazil, that would be accurate. At UFC 237 in May of 2019, the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate entered the UFC win column for the first time, decisioning Kurt Holobaugh over three rounds. A defeat to Damir Ismagulov followed three months later, but then came a three-fight winning streak in which he defeated Michael Johnson, Bobby Green and Aleaxander Hernandez, landing him in the rankings at 155 pounds. But just as fast, back-to-back losses to Islam Makhachev and Joel Alvarez left him in rebuilding mode. And there, it’s been so far, so good, as he scored a Performance of the Night submission of Christos Giagos last June.
“I knew my back was against the wall, for sure,” he said of the Giagos bout. “I knew that, but I could change my mindset to just go there and do my best because if I keep telling myself to keep those thoughts, that would not help me at all. So I just focused on what would help me in that fight, and that was going there to do my best and execute the game plan. If I did my best, I knew I was going to get the win.”
He did, turning the page on a new chapter after a wild few years. But that rollercoaster is something Moises knew he was signing up for when he made the move from Brazil to the States, as tough as that decision was.
“It was very tough because the first time when I came here I was 17 and I had my wife - she was my girlfriend at the time - already,” he said. “So I would stay here a couple months, then go to Brazil, stay there a couple months, and we kept the relationship. And then when I turned 22, we married, she finished college, then she moved to the U.S. with me and it was very hard because I wasn't in the UFC yet. I had no money, I had to work and stay away from my family. My wife was away from her family, so it was very hard for her, also. And I also had to train very hard because my goal was to be in the UFC. It wasn't easy at all.”
His wife, Maria, must like him a little bit.
“Yeah, she must like me,” laughs Moises.”She had a good life in Brazil, but she left everything behind to come believe in this dream with me.”
Today, the dream is alive and well for a fighter who would like nothing more than to get a second-consecutive win this Saturday and then start planning his road to a rematch with a fighter who didn’t only beat him, but then went on to win the UFC lightweight title. Yeah, Moises has Makhachev in his sights.
“I know right now he's one step ahead of everybody from the lightweight division, but in that fight I could feel that I have what it takes to beat this guy, especially a couple years from now,” said Moises, who was submitted by the Russian in the fourth round in July of 2021. “If I keep getting better, keep growing, I know, for sure, that I can beat him. I did really good against him and I know I can do much better.”
But first, there’s Costa, Brazil, and a homecoming that he hopes kicks off the best year of his career.
“In 2023, I want to break in the Top 10,” Moises said. “I believe a win is going to bring me back in the rankings and I want to do two more fights and break into the Top 10. That's my goal. Three fights and three bonuses.”
UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill took place live from Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 21, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!