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Champion Marlon Moraes will test free agency after WSOF contract expires

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Marlon Moraes successfully defended his World Series of Fighting bantamweight title with vicious leg kicks on Feb. 20, stopping Joseph Barajas in only 73 seconds, and could be one fight away from the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Riding an impressive 11-fight winning streak with nine victories under the WSOF banner, Moraes’ next bout will be the last on his contract. One of the highest-paid fighters in the promotion, the Brazilian doesn’t think money could be an issue for a potential transfer to the UFC.

"It doesn’t change anything because I know my qualities. It’s a matter of time until I conquer my space in the UFC or wherever I go," Moraes told MMAFighting.com. "It’s a matter of time until I go there and put on a show. I fight aggressively, put on great fights, knockouts. Win or lose, I put on the best fight of the night. That’s what fans enjoy. Where I’m going or where I’m at, I’m not worried."

Moraes will not re-sign with WSOF before his 10th fight in the promotion, testing the market right after.

"I’m a WSOF fighter now, and I have one fight left in my contract. After this fight, I will see what I want to do," he said. "I’m happy here, so after my next fight I will talk to my family, my manager and my team to see what’s best for the team. I don’t fear anything. That’s what life is all about. If you don’t risk, you can’t win. I don’t fear taking risks."

WSOF has yet to announce his next opponent, and it could be 9-1-1 bantamweight Chris Gutierrez, who scored his seventh straight victory with a split decision over rising Russian talent Timur Valiev at WSOF 28.

"That’s up to the promotion to think and decide, be creative and put on the best fight for the division, or the best fight overall," said the champion. "I don’t know what their plans are. I’m all ears. Whatever they think it’s best for the promotion, the result will be positive. I just want to fight as soon as possible."

Defending the belt is not a priority, as Moraes volunteers to fighting anyone up to 155 pounds.

"I told them my focus is not to take anyone’s belt," said Moraes. "I’m the bantamweight champion. But if they think I deserve a super fight, that’s what I want. I’m anxious. I hope they get my next fight done soon.

"I’m at 160 pounds now, but weight doesn’t matter too much. I would fight at either featherweight or lightweight, no problem. It would be cool to have two belts. I would have more opportunities to fight more often."

UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor recently failed in his attempt to move up from 145 pounds to welterweight by losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, but Moraes believes he has the talent to be successful in a different weight class.

"McGregor has a lot of holes in his wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and that was evident when he fought a bigger athlete," said the Brazilian. "I’m really fast, and I can use this speed. And my takedown defense and jiu-jitsu are superior to his. It’s a matter of strategy. For him, fighting a bigger guy wasn’t a good choice because he doesn’t have a good grappling, and a heavier guy can easily use that advantage over him, like Nate did. He had the opportunity and submitted him."

Speaking of UFC fighters, Moraes is confident against anyone in the 135-pound division, and that includes champion Dominick Cruz.

"I’m a tough fight for any of them," Moraes said when asked how he would do against the five best UFC bantamweights. "These guys are top athletes and I’m always watching them fight. It would be a good fight, any of them.

"My kicks are my strongest weapon," he added. "Dominick Cruz has never been kicked by someone like me, absolutely."