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From missed childhood to Anderson Silva’s advice, Sheymon Moraes finds happiness in the UFC

Brazilian featherweight Sheymon Moraes (pictured) fights Andre Fili at UFC Sacramento.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

We often see fighters looks back at their early ties with martial arts as a secret for success. For UFC featherweight Sheymon Moraes, that’s what almost moved him away from the sport.

Moraes has been fighting MMA professionally since 2012, compiling an 11-3 record with five knockouts and at one point challenging for World Series of Fighting bantamweight gold. Problem is, the Niteroi native was thrown into martial arts as a competition so early that he’d had enough of doing what he loved the most.

“I was a great judoka, but one day I said, ‘I don’t want to do this any more’ and never put on a gi again,” said Moraes, who faces Andre Fili at Saturday night’s UFC Sacramento show. “I started training judo when I was six and competed until I was 12. I kind of lost part of my childhood, playing and having fun with other kids, to train for tournaments. I wanted to have fun and train, but one day I didn’t want it anymore. I was an excellent judoka, but was full of it and walked away as a purple belt.”

Luckily enough, Moraes’ love for sports would drive him into mixed martial arts years later.

After “retiring” from judo, Moraes would continue training jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and Muay Thai just for fun. He would play beach soccer, too. He was so good he eventually started competing in Muay Thai, and that martial art was what one day garnered the attention of a pair of Brazilian MMA legends.

“I had an important Muay Thai fight coming up in Thailand and went back to Brazil to spend the holidays with my parents, and I didn’t want to spend much time away from training,” Moraes says. “I went to Team Nogueira to train and ended up helping an MMA fighter. He was going to fight a striker and needed someone to spar with. I was sparring with him and Anderson and ‘Minotauro’ saw me training and said, ‘Why don’t you fight MMA? You have a way with this.’”

Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champion at the time, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, a former UFC and PRIDE champion, watched Moraes spar and pushed him to try his hand at MMA. Max Fight offered him “good money” and he thought, “Okay, let’s fight once and see how that goes.”

Three months later, on March 2012, Moraes defeated Richard Medeiros in his MMA debut via decision. By the end of that year, Moraes had already won five bouts and a one-night tournament over fellow prospect Pedro Nobre.

“I liked it,” Moraes says. “I thought it was easier than Muay Thai, and it paid better. I started doing well and now I’m in the UFC [laughs].”

“It’s easier to fight (MMA than Muay Thai),” he continues. “MMA is more complicated to train because there are more things involved, but fighting Muay Thai is actually more complicated because they compete more and have more experience in the ring. It’s more of a chess match between two good players, whereas in MMA there are more openings you can explore because sometimes your opponents don’t have much experience in certain areas.”

Moraes went 3-1 inside the WSOF cage with wins over the likes of Robbie Peralta and Luis Palomino and then signed with the UFC after a long out-of-the-cage battle with WSOF. After losing his debut to Zabit Magomedsharipov and defeating Matt Sayles and Julio Arce, Moraes was on the losing end of three-round clash with Sodiq Yusuff in March.

“I watched that fight over and over again. I won that fight,” Moraes says. “I think it was a mistake by the judges because I won every round. I won the first round, I won the second, and I was winning the third until he knocked me down, but he couldn’t control me. I went back up and went straight forward to knock him down too, but time ran out. I won the fight and they gave him the win.

“My previous fight against Julio Arce, I hit him a lot. I washed the Octagon with his blood and judges still gave me a split decision win. We can’t understand judges sometimes, but that’s life. I think I fought a good fight.”

“I fixed some little details now,” he adds. “I’ll be more aggressive and more active now, and I think everything will be alright. A lot of people still come talk to me saying I won that fight, but life goes on. My focus now is on July 13, Saturday, against Andre Fili.”

“Touchy” Fili, a Team Alpha Male product, will be fighting on his home turf at UFC Sacramento. Moraes will try his best to avoid going the distance again, but fighting at such a high level makes it complicated.

“You have to be patient,” Moraes says. “He’s a complete fighter, does everything well and is in the UFC for a long time, fought some big names. I think that a win over him boosts me up in the UFC. It’s gonna be great for me. I think I’m stronger, faster and more explosive than him, and I will use that to bring this victory. I can beat him on the feet and in the grappling area.

“When I close my eyes I don’t see how this fight ends, but I know my hands are raised in victory.”