After a year on the sidelines, Rob Font is ready to make his presence felt in the bantamweight division.
Font returns to the octagon for the first time since his December 2019 win over Ricky Simon to face Marlon Moraes this Saturday at UFC Vegas 17. The 135-pound main card matchup takes place at the APEX in the final event for the promotion in 2020.
The New England Cartel member tore his ACL during his decision win over Simon and feels more motivated than ever after cornering teammate Calvin Kattar in both of his 2020 wins over Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige.
With Kattar setting the bar, Font is ready to chase his brother in combat up the rankings now that he’s fully healed.
“Recovery went smooth,” Font told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “It’s a big fight, big opportunity for me, for New England, for Boston, and for The Cartel. It’s gonna be a couple of big months for me and Calvin.”
It will be the 11th promotional walk for the Massachusetts native, and he enters the fight a winner of two straight, and three of four. Font, currently ranked No. 11 in the division, expected to get a fellow top-15 opponent upon his return, but was pleasantly surprised to get someone in the top-three of the division.
“I was like, alright cool because I thought it would be maybe a Jimmie (Rivera), a ‘Chito’, Cody Stamann,” Font said. “When I heard Marlon, I kind of felt it. Like, ‘Wait a minute, this could potentially be a fight,’ but the way he got finished, I didn’t know. But we got the call and I was like, ‘Of course, man.’ This can put me right into that mix, can help me leapfrog those names I just mentioned.
“I’m here to remind everybody that I’m here and I’m ready to throw down.”
Moraes, a former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion, made his UFC debut in June 2017 and dropped a split decision to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212. “Magic” responded with four straight wins, including first-round stoppages of Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera, and Assuncao in a rematch to earn his first shot at UFC gold.
The 32-year-old would get finishes via third-round TKO against Henry Cejudo in a fight for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 238, and would go onto earn a decision win over Jose Aldo, before getting put away in the second round by Cory Sandhagen in the main event of October’s UFC Fight Island 5 event.
Font has seen the impact an emphatic performance can have in the UFC and feels as if he has the tools to insert himself as a major player at 135.
“Obviously I want the win, but I really want that finish, man,” Font explained. “I feel like those finishes make the big statements and I could get to that title shot a lot quicker if I finish this guy.
“Cory kind of put the game plan out there: I need to stay long, move on my feet, make sure I give him a bunch of different looks and switch up the angles on him. I can’t be a sitting target for him to kick the legs and make him feel comfortable. I want to push him backwards, make him uncomfortable, yet draw him in at the same time. There’s gonna be a lot of in and out motions. I need to keep him at my range and land some big shots.
“I got a long reach on him and I need to use it, be smart, and let him run into the big ones.”
Despite Moraes’ recent struggles, Font isn’t depending on it to lead him to victory. It’s a motto in the New England Cartel that nothing is given, and everything is earned, and the 31-fight veteran is expecting to face a tip-top version of Moraes on Saturday night.
“Look, this sport is brutal so I’m not gonna look too much into his losses,” Font said. “I’ve been better off of every loss I’ve ever had. You don’t know what could be going on in his personal life that could add to that. But I’m definitely not gonna sleep on him, and I’m definitely not gonna take him lightly. I know how it feels coming off a loss and trying to get back in there, try to erase that feeling.
“In my mind, he’s just as dangerous as he was when he won the belt (in World Series of Fighting) and I’m gonna go out there to fight that champion, that guy with his confidence high. I’m gonna try and fight the best Marlon Moraes and whatever (version) shows up, shows up. I’m taking this very seriously.”
With his teammate Kattar getting ready for the biggest fight of his career when he meets Max Holloway in the main event of the UFC’s Jan. 16 fight card, Font plans on doing everything in his power to set the table. In fact, in a perfect world, Font would pay homage to Kattar in the way he hopes to finish Moraes.
“I want to get that big elbow knockout win like Calvin got, man,” Font stated. “He took that elbow to new heights so I want to try and mimic that. But it’s gonna be a finish. I gotta get in there and finish, give one of those exciting fights that you can learn a lot from. I want to tactfully take this guy down, or put him away. If not, I want that big elbow knockout finish like my boy Calvin Kattar did.
“It sets up a lot of big fights and getting a big finish could potentially set me up for a title shot, you never know with injuries, or what not. Or, it could lead to a bigger name like a Jose Aldo, I know TJ Dillashaw is coming back soon too, so that could line up.”