Unbeaten in nine of 10 fights since moving down to welterweight in the Octagon, with the only defeat coming by the hands of future 170-pound champion Kamaru Usman, Moraes returns to action against Anthony Rocco Martin at UFC Wichita, hoping to earn a spot in the top 15 of the division with a win Saturday.
“I think it’s important when people ask you about deserving to be in the ranking because it shows you’re doing your part,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. “I’ve fought a top 5 before, Neil Magny, and submitted him. It shows the job is being done.”
The jiu-jitsu specialist is coming off a second-round submission victory over Ben Saunders in September, and believes that not being as active as he would have preferred is the reason why he’s not in the top 15 yet.
After his impressive first-round win over Magny in 2013, Moraes was forced out of the cage for more than a year after multiple injuries and cancelled fights with Zak Cummings, Sean Spencer, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Peter Sobotta and Gasan Umalatov.
The Evolucao Thai fighter competed twice a year since 2015, going 5-1-1 under the UFC banner. His plan is to fight four times over the next nine months.
“I think what’s missing is the UFC giving me more fights,” Moraes said. “It’s taking too long between fights. I want to win this fight and then fight in Rio again (UFC 237), get one fight after the other to get more rhythm. People notice us when we’re in the Octagon all the time.”
“I only have that loss to Usman (as a welterweight), and we all have bad days,” he continued. “He’s no fool, has his merits. I’m in the biggest fight promotion in the world and only have one loss (at welterweight), so people better notice that too.”
An “interesting match-up” Moraes would welcome next is against fellow Brazilian grappler Demian Maia, but doesn’t think it’s the right time now. For UFC 237, scheduled for May 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Moraes suggests a welterweight clash with Michael Chiesa, who “just got to the division, so I can’t let him jump the line like that [laughs].”
“I’ve been saying this since my first UFC fight. With my head on the right place, it’s hard to stop me,” Moraes said. “I’ve focused on what I do best, on the feet and on the ground, so let’s fight. Let’s war.”
“He’s a tough guy who likes to grapple,” he said of Martin, “But those who like to grapple usually decide to stand and bang with me. We’ll see. I believe he’ll try something different. Let’s wait and see. I’ve traded with strikes before and won. I trust my coach Andre Dida to get more comfortable in all areas, but I can’t forget my roots, I can’t throw my jiu-jitsu black belt away.”