BELEM, Brazil — Fighting in Belem is special for Sergio Moraes.
The multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion is scheduled to compete against Tim Means at UFC Belem on Feb. 3, and fighting less than eight miles away from where Mitsuyo Maeda met Carlos Gracie brings a unique energy to Moraes as he attempts to win a fight by submission for the first time in almost five years.
”I believe that the energy of the city will bring another submission,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. “Belem, the birthplace of jiu-jitsu, where jiu-jitsu came to Brazil for the first time and met the Gracie family. Against a guy that likes to be submitted… let’s hope for that [laughs].”
”I haven’t studied his game that much, but I know he’s southpaw and switches stances, like to strike, so I believe he will try to keep it standing,” Moraes said. “When the fight goes to the ground, that’s when things will happen. That’s pretty much how I see the fight playing out.”
Moraes admits he’s bothered by his own lack of submissions since his flawless UFC 163 win over Neil Magny. He says the reason that happened is because he focused too much on evolving as a striker over the past few years.
The strategy worked fine for some of his recent wins, including a Dec. 2015 knockout over Omari Akhmedov, however a brutal first-round defeat to Kamaru Usman last September — which snapped Moraes’ seven-fight unbeaten run as a welterweight — made him once again focus on what he’s best at.
”I turned my focus back to the ground, working on my jiu-jitsu again,” Moraes said. “I was too comfortable standing, but I will never become a striker as good as I am as a grappler, so I’m coming back to my origins in Belem. I’ve worked hard to evolve in the striking area and ended up leaving my jiu-jitsu aside a little bit, but we’re coming back full force now for another submission. I see myself submitting this guy.”
Moraes wasn’t so interested in facing a UFC newcomer in his 10th appearance inside the Octagon, but would never turn down a fight.
”I had no idea that this fight was booked, but that was a bad fight for me because he was making his debut and I’ve been fighting for a long time in the UFC,” Moraes said. “I would have fought him if they wanted, but that’s what I think. Tim Means is a better fight for me because he’s been in the UFC for a long time, so it’s a bigger fight.
”There’s only one Khabib, so his cousin is his cousin,” Moraes continued. “It’s hard to have another Khabib, but if there’s another one, great. Who knows, maybe we’ll fight one day. My focus is on Tim Means now. I don’t worry about [Abubakar]. Not yet. If he gets in the UFC and gets some wins and wants to test himself against me, feel free to book another Brazil vs. Russia (fight).”