The Ultimate Fighter 24 cast member Brandon Moreno is on a different road than his fellow TUF fighters.
Usually, at the end of each TUF season, the tournament finalists fight each other to determine the champion in a UFC event that airs live. And to fill out the rest of the card, most of the other cast members that were eliminated during the show fight each other in the prelims.
Well, Mexico's Moreno is skipping out of that step, and instead he'll be opening up the main card of UFC Fight Night 96 on FOX Sports 1 against one of the hottest prospects in MMA – Louis Smolka. The 25-year-old Hawaiian is on a four-fight winning streak and is currently ranked no. 9 at flyweight.
Moreno recalls getting the call from the UFC to fight Smolka on short notice.
"Well, the UFC matchmaker got in contact with my trainer, and he told him that Sergio Pettis got injured and that they were looking for a replacement and that they had thought of me," Moreno told MMA Fighting. "So my trainer thought about it a bit because my fight in TUF was a war and it was something very rough that wasn't too long ago, and we knew that this fight was going to be another war in very short time without a training camp, against a very tough opponent ranked number nine in the division. So my trainer thought about it a bit for my well being because he didn't want to submit my body through more pressure like that. But he told me that the matchmaker was still very insistent, so I went home that day and I went back to the gym in the evening, and he told me the matchmaker was still insisting, so we had no option but to take the fight. And the truth is that I'm always training, and I'm ready. I'm ready for the war that is coming in front of me this Saturday.
The 22-year-old Moreno understands that fighting in the UFC is something different than TUF, but doesn't know what to expect.
"Of course TUF is completely different than the UFC," Moreno explained. "But what can I tell you, I'm living my dream. It's something that I've been chasing for a long time. It's something that I've been fighting for many years, and I don't really know what to expect when I'm walking towards the cage, hearing all the people screaming, the music, so I guess I'm going to feel nervous, but I know that I'm going to feel very happy accomplishing my dream no matter what happens."
Fighting on short notice against one of the top fighters at 125 pounds, Moreno believes fighting smart is going to be the key in defeating Smolka.
"It's going to be a fight where I'm going to have to play it very smart," Moreno said. "We understand that Louis Smolka is a very durable fighter with a lot of distance, he puts a lot of pressure, and when he's in bad positions he can explode well, and he knows how to put you in bad positions, so he can counter attack. So I'm going to have to be very smart, move a lot, exchange with him and try o take him down. And more than anything, control him and tie his game up. I want to be wearing on him as the rounds go on, and not look for the quick submission because we know that he explodes very well and we don't want to end up on bad positions.
Moreno has had the opportunity to do some training with top-flyweight contender and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo. Moreno helped Cejudo when the Olympian was getting ready to fight Jussier Formiga and champion Demetrious Johnson. The Mexican fighter only trains in Arizona when helping Cejudo. Moreno usually trains out of Tijuana, Mexico at Entram gym and feels a responsibility and honor to represent Mexico in the octagon.
"More than a responsibility it's an honor to be part of this whole Mexican wave that has been coming in the past two years," Moreno said. "And it's an honor, but I do feel some responsibility carrying the flag of Mexico on my shoulders, it's something nice. But at the end, it's Mexico and it's me, it's my job, but obviously I do it for Mexico and it's an honor and it feels really nice representing your country. I hope that the Mexican people appreciate all the work I do because I do it to represent Mexico so that it's know that in Mexico there is the level of MMA to standout."