RIO DE JANEIRO — When Jose Aldo announced he was planning on cutting down to bantamweight to chase a championship fight with Henry Cejudo, former title challenger Marlon Moraes volunteered to be the one to welcome him to the division.
Leonardo Santos, one of the main fighters from Nova Uniao team in Brazil, wasn’t happy with the callout. Moraes trained for some time at Santos and Aldo’s team a decade ago, and the veteran lightweight admits it took him a while to get over it.
“We like him,” Santos said. “In fact, I was a bit upset to see this fight because Marlon is such a nice guy, we chat when he meet, but there’s a professional side that whoever wins gets a chance for the belt, so he looked for that aspect and put the friendship aside. You have to be a professional.
“I was a bit pissed off in the beginning because Marlon asked for it. We welcomed him here and now he makes this challenge, but I like him a lot. He treats me super well when he sees me. But it’s a Nova Uniao thing. We’re pretty tight, like family, so can’t think too much about it. He’s away for a long time, has another head, other coaches, other friends, so he has to move on with his life. I wish him no harm, but I hope he loses this fight [laughs].”
Aldo hit the 136-pound mark for the first time in way over a decade on Friday, a day before UFC 245 in Las Vegas. When the idea was mentioned for the first time in the gym, Santos, who helps as head coach for Nova Uniao when team founder Andre Pederneiras is not around, admits he thought it was “crazy” and expected it to go wrong, but Aldo’s hard work changed his mind.
“My only question is how Aldo will be on the day of the fight, but based on what I’m seeing here in the gym you can expect an amazing Aldo,” Santos said. “Aldo never went on a diet before. He used to go to a steak house a week before a 145-pound fight, and now he’s on a diet like a real athlete does. He used to eat burger and fries after sparring, man, but that’s because he’s a monster.
“He’s pure muscle now, training super hard. He’s performing like he was at 145. The tough part is the recovery, but ‘Dede’ hired great professionals. If everything goes right, you can expect a high-level Aldo at 135. I see him with great chances of becoming champion.”
Aldo is looking to get back on track after losing a lackluster decision to Alexander Volkanovski in May, a defeat that snapped a two-fight knockout streak over Renato Moicano and Jeremy Stephens. Moraes, on the other hand, lost to two-division champion Henry Cejudo in June after winning four in a row in the UFC.
“We know Marlon has changed his fighting style, has more confidence since he left Brazil,” Santos said. “I think he got the support he needed to become a complete different fighter from the one that was here.”
“I don’t think this fight lasts three rounds,” he added. “A fight is a fight, Marlon is an excellent athlete, a really tough guy. He’s a high-level fighter, but it doesn’t last three rounds.”