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Joseph Barajas surprised he got call to fight WSOF bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes

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Joseph Barajas was surprised as anyone when he got the call.

Sure, the Vista., Calif. native looked impressive in his World Series of Fighting debut, where he finished Erik Villalobos in the final minute of their WSOF 25 bout.

But to jump from that performance straight into a crack at WSOF's golden boy, bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, with the title shot coming just an hour's drive from home, to boot? That, Barajas wasn't expecting.

"I was real surprised when I found out I was going to get the title shot," Barajas told MMAFighting.com. "When you enter an organization, your goal is to get to the top, but I thought I'd get another fighter or two.

Still, though, Barajas wasn't about to say no to the opportunity when it came knocking. He'll meet Moraes in the main event of Saturday's WSOF 28 in Garden Grove, Calif., which will be broadcast live on NBCSN.

"Don't get me wrong, when they offered me the fight I took it right away," Barajas said. "I mean, you would too. To get get a chance like this, to go out on national TV and a champion who the fans know, that's the fastest way to make my own name."

That's not a bad goal for a fighter who still doesn't have a Wikipedia page, despite a 12-1 record with seven finishes.

Barajas took what's become a standard path into mixed martial arts, wrestling throughout his childhood growing up in north San Diego County and a standout at both Vista High School and Palomar College, where he's now a volunteer coach.

Like many wrestlers before him, Barajas figured MMA was a way to keep the competitive fires going after his eligibility ran out and maybe get paid in the process.

"I started taking boxing classes when I was in high school, and I mean, I wasn't a huge MMA fan but everyone around here knows about it," Barajas said. "So when my friends went out to train in MMA, I was like 'yeah, I think I can do this.'"

Prior to making his WSOF debut, Barajas found his way on the local scene, starting out as a featherweight, before making the drop down to 135 pounds and finding his groove.

Along the way, Barajas became involved with what's become a notorious brand name in the sport: Xplode MMA. The Xplode Fight Night series has drawn negative attention for fight cards which often feature severe mismatches. Barajas, for his part, went 5-0 in explode, two of which were first-round finishes over fighters making their only career pr o MMA appearance.

But Barajas isn't about to apologize for Xplode. He points out that those who fight under the Escondido-based Team Xplode MMA banner include competitors who made it to the UFC in Robbie Peralta and Dashon Johnson, as well as Derek Anderson, who is 5-2 in Bellator.

"I don't have anything to say to the Xplode haters," Barajas said. "We've got legit guys, guys who can fight at the top level, and I have the chance ot become their first world champion. The results speak for themselves."

Indeed, winning tends to fix everything. And dethroning a champion in Moraes who has been with the company since its inaugural event is one way to silence doubters.

"All respect to Marlon," said Barajas. "The guy is where he is for a reason. But just like he was on his way up at one point and started surprising people, I'm going to do the same, too."