Marlon Moraes entered free agency after scoring his 10th straight victory under the World Series of Fighting banner in July, but he’s not going anywhere.
The Brazilian talent, who holds the promotion's bantamweight championship since 2014, re-signed with the promotion, and will defend his title against Josenaldo Silva at WSOF's first trip to New York on Dec. 31.
Excited about his upcoming fight at WSOF 34, Moraes talked to MMA Fighting about his decision to stay with WSOF instead of pursuing new challenges in the UFC or Bellator.
"It’s exciting to fight in New York,” Moraes said. "One of the main things I took in consideration (and stay with WSOF) was fighting in New York. It’s going to be awesome. I’m happy I’m part of this card. Many people talk about the financial aspect, but fighting in a big card in New York, next to my home, moves us who like fighting and like the challenge.”
When Moraes entered free agency, fans were hoping that he would enter one of the top two promotions and face bigger challenges in the bantamweight division, and the Brazilian felt honored with it.
"It was good to see that a lot of people recognize the work I’ve been doing, but the offer that came from WSOF was something I couldn't say no to,” he said. "But I’m really happy, my family and team are happy, too. That’s what I chose to fight for."
Moraes is one of the stars at WSOF, and his pay reflects that. The bantamweight champion admits that he "thought a lot” about money and challenges when making his decision.
"That's something that got me thinking,” Moraes said. "I thought a lot about it, talked to everybody about it, but in the end, I decided to take this chance. I’m young, I’m 28 years old, and I fight for what I want. It might take a little longer, a year or two. I don’t care. I will work hard to prove I’m one of the best.”
Moraes wouldn't reveal the details of his new contract with WSOF, only to call it a "different" multi-fight deal. Unbeaten since 2011 after 12 straight victories in the United States and Canada, the bantamweight says it’s a matter of time until he signs with the UFC or Bellator.
"Fans ask for it, and it’s good to know that my name is out there, that people are talking,” Moraes said. "If it takes a little longer for me to be in the UFC or Bellator, my name will be even bigger when I get there, and I’ll be more prepared.
"The UFC has changed its policies, and that was one of the facts that made me re-sign with WSOF. When it’s time, when the UFC or Bellator really want the athlete, they will pay. It’s what Dana White said, you will eat what you kill. If you eat a small fish, you won’t be satisfied. But if you kill a big fish, you will be. I’m here to be tested and prove my name.”
The challenge, Moraes admits, is to keep finding “big fishes” in the market.
"It’s really hard,” he agrees, "but once again they gave me a tough opponent so I can show how much I’ve evolved and where I can go."
Scheduled to face Josenaldo Silva, who is making his WSOF debut and is unknown by the audience in the United States, the champion says it’s not an easy bout.
"He’s a good athlete, a good striker, so it’s going to be a war,” Moraes said of Silva, who enters the fight coming off 18 straight victories in Brazil. "I’m ready. He was one of the top names from Brazil, the next guy to sign with an American promotion, and WSOF was able to sign him to fight me.
"I knew who he was because I watch a lot of events in Brazil,” he added. "We don’t choose opponents. The first name that came was the first name that I accepted. It’s going to be a war, the way fans love. I’m ready."