Marlon Moraes became a free agent after going 11-0 under the WSOF banner between 2012 and 2016, and the rising bantamweight knows where he wants to fight next.
After leaving World Series of Fighting as the 135-pound champion, the Brazilian talent has yet to sign a deal with a MMA promotion, but admits he’s close to becoming a UFC fighter. In the end, that’s exactly where he wants to compete.
"We’re trying to get the right thing, everything right. But, of course, I wanna to go the UFC,” Moraes said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "It’s a dream. We’re working, man. I’m training like I have a fight, I’m getting better every day, and it’s just a matter of time to have the right date.
"I don’t have a contract, I’m still a free agent. I don’t have a date, I don’t have a bout agreement, so I’m training like I’m fighting in two weeks, three weeks. I wanna keep a good shape so if I get a call from anybody I’m ready."
Moraes left WSOF as one of the company's highest-paid fighters, and wants a good paycheck to compete in the UFC.
"I’m one of the best fighters,” Moraes said. "I’m not saying outside the UFC, I’m saying all MMA. Bantamweight division, one of the top 5. Anybody knows I can be the champion, I can hang with the champion. Today we can say the UFC champion, Cody (Garbrandt), he's the best out there, he's the champion, he holds the belt, and he makes a lot of money. If I can hang with him, I also want to make a lot of money like all those champions. Let’s see what's going to happen. I’m very excited, man."
The Rio de Janeiro native will turn 29 in April, and feels he’s in his prime. Winner of his last 13 MMA bouts, Moraes believes other MMA fighters, including some top-ranked bantamweights in the UFC, are “worried" about him.
"I just feel the fighters now, they started get nervous,” Moraes said. "They see its getting close, close to see that name and the date. I don’t know. I feel like I started to bother some guys. Even in the UFC, man."
"I’m not exclusively talking about anyone,” he continued. "I just feel like some of the guys… If you’re in a major promotion like the UFC, you should be able to fight whatever they offer. I’m never gonna pick opponents. Whatever the UFC says, or (other) promotion says, I’m gonna say yes. If you’re there, you gotta fight whoever they think you have to fight.”
Moraes’ team is in negotiations with the UFC, and names like Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao, both ranked in the top 5 of the UFC bantamweight division, are two of the possibilities to welcome him to the Octagon if he signs with the company.
"I don’t pick against who,” Moraes said. "I want the belt. Whatever it takes to do this, I’m gonna do it. I’m very hungry, I’m very motivated. I wanna fight. And that’s it. I’m not picking opponents. Top 1, top 5… If I have to fight all top 15, 15 fights in a row, I’ll fight. It doesn’t matter. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m humble enough to know that I have to go step by step and get what I want."
“Jimmie Rivera, he’s a top guy, he's a tough guy,” he continued. "He's been saying my name a couple of times, but when you talk about somebody it’s because… Everybody knows who is who. If I drive a car and this car goes 100 miles per hour, and that's a car on my side and I know that car only goes 90, I’m gonna be fine, but if I’m 100 and that car can go 120, I’m gonna start to worry. That’s what I think is happening (with Rivera)."
Arguably the best unsigned bantamweight in MMA today, Moraes wonders why nobody seems to want to enter a cage with him anymore.
"Feels like (nobody wants to fight me). I don’t know why. Why?” Moraes said. "Good fighters fight with good fighters. This is the game. You never gonna know if you can beat somebody if you don’t fight them. That’s a fight, not training."
If he ends up signing with the UFC, the Brazilian 135-pounder said "it would be a dream” to debut at UFC 212, pay-per-view event booked for June 3 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I’m from Rio,” Moraes said. "To fight at home… I wanna fight there. It would be cool. That’s bigger than anything that I thought before."