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Bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes ‘begged’ WSOF officials to sign Aljamain Sterling

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes hasn't been shy about expressing his desire to fight higher ranked opposition. So once the chance to land an undefeated UFC contender like Aljamain Sterling arose, Moraes said he pleaded with WSOF management to pony up the money to sign "The Funk Master."

"Not just told, but I begged (WSOF officials to sign Sterling) because I knew this guy is a big name," Moraes said Monday on The MMA Hour. "He's a great fighter. He works very well for the promotion, and I think it was a smart move by the UFC, keeping him, because he can make a lot of noise in this division.

"He's one of the guys I look up at," Moraes added, "and it would be a pleasure having a guy like that on the roster, so I could be fighting a guy like this and prove where I belong."

Following a much-publicized free agency period, Sterling announced Monday on The MMA Hour that he had reached a deal to re-sign with the UFC, ending Moraes' hopes of locking horns against one of the best the division has to offer.

The outcome was expected, but nonetheless frustrating for Moraes, a 27-year-old champion who defends his title next against prospect Joseph Barajas on Saturday at WSOF 28.

Moraes is a perfect 8-0 over the course of his WSOF run and trains alongside respected names like Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza under coach Mark Henry.

Altogether, Moraes is widely regarded as one of the best bantamweights fighting outside of the UFC. However the quality of his recent opposition, along with WSOF's lack of success attracting top bantamweight talent like Sterling, has left the Brazilian wanting more from WSOF matchmakers.

"Everybody knows where I belong," Moraes said. "I have Frankie with me, and Frankie, man, in my opinion, is one of the best 145ers in the world. Training with him everyday is no joke, and I know I can fight with these guys.

"I want to put myself in deep waters. My coach always tells me, ‘man, when you fight with these guys who people think are going to be good (and) they're going to beat you, that's the best Marlon.' And I want to take the best Marlon. I want to find the best Marlon. And I know to find that guy, I've got to fight with these guys, with these monsters. I'm going to become a monster when I fight with those monsters."