Marlon Moraes and Jimmie Rivera will finally meet inside the Octagon after months of back and forth on social media and press conferences, and the Brazilian bantamweight sees the five-round challenge at UFC Utica as an opportunity to prove how good he really is.
Moraes joined the UFC in 2017 and went the distance in close fights against Raphael Assuncao and John Dodson before knocking out Aljamain Sterling in spectacular fashion in December. Six months later, “Magic” headlines Friday’s show in Utica looking to get closer to the bantamweight belt.
”I think he waited for the right time for him, and it is now,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. “But he wanted the fight because it’s happening on Friday. Maybe he looked out for what’s best for him, but I’m ready for this fight now. Let’s see who’s better on Friday. I’ll leave my best in the Octagon.”
In the end, Moraes believes that postponing the fight was good because it gave him an extra six months to prepare, instead of getting a quick turnaround just three weeks after his win over Sterling.
”Every time we train, we feel more comfortable,” Moraes said. “I feel better, a complete fighter, ready to fight in every area. Rivera is a tough guy, with good boxing and wrestling, but I’m ready to show I’m here to stay.”
The Brazilian talent has been more active recently, but Rivera’s 20-fight winning streak, which includes victories over the likes of Urijah Faber, Thomas Almeida and Pedro Munhoz, and is an impressive one.
”It’s hard to come up with a strategies for every opponent in the UFC because they are all tough,” Moraes said, “but we worked hard to make sure my game matches up well with his. I’m a complete athlete and I’m ready to get in there and do my thing.”
The fight might have looked personal at times leading up to UFC Utica, but Moraes says it’s all business for him against Rivera.
”It’s about wanting to be at the top and fighting the best. This is what I think,” Moraes said. “A bit about changing dates and interviews, him not being ready to fight, so we got a little frustrated, but it’s happening at the right time. The fight came when I’m most prepared for it.”