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Rob Font reflects on ‘told you so,’ career-altering finish of Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17

After a year away recovering from a torn ACL, Rob Font’s UFC Vegas 17 performance couldn’t have gone any better—unless you add in the fact that he proved several doubters wrong in the process.

One of the founding members of the New England Cartel put away the No. 3-ranked Marlon Moraes in the first round on the main card of the UFC’s final event of 2020. Font had been looking for that signature win since he entered the promotion in July 2014 and he got it done in his biggest opportunity yet.

“It just felt like, ‘Finally,’” Font told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I had been waiting too long for this, I knew I was ready for this. As I was walking, all I can say it felt like was finally. It just felt right, what we’ve been daydreaming about, envisioning for so long. Let’s just take advantage of it and have fun.”

Font suffered the knee injury during his unanimous decision win over Ricky Simon a little over a year prior. With momentum halted for the time being, the Massachusetts native worked vigorously to get back in the octagon.

Being along for the 2020 success of teammate Calvin Kattar, Font entered the fight with Moraes not thinking about the injury, the layoff, or anything else but his opponent.

“I had a brand new knee so I wasn’t even worried about it, it was a better knee than before” Font said. “The injury wasn’t the issue. Being out for a year wasn’t the issue. The only issue was having Marlon Moraes in front of me, a guy that’s a veteran, an ex-champ. He’s a dangerous dude that puts guys away with just one kick. That was the obstacle and we passed with flying colors.”

In the opening seconds of the fight, Moraes—who has collected a slew of highlight-reel knockouts since signing with the UFC—immediately took the fight to the mat. Font was able to stay out of danger, and even thwarted a guillotine attempt before getting back to his feet. Once that happened, it became the Font show, as he continuously landed rattling shots that hurt and dropped Moraes before finishing the fight with ground-and-pound.

It was surprising to most that Moraes shot in quickly, but not to Font, who had the approach in the back of his mind.

“Ya know it’s funny: [my coach and manager] Tyson (Chartier) was [kind of] joking around and said, ‘He’s probably gonna take you down,’” Font explained. “I was just like, whatever, but I didn’t see him all week. But we were passing by going to the fight and I saw one of his jiu-jitsu coaches Vagner Rocha—a high level jiu-jitsu guy—and I never even knew they worked together. Right then I was like, ‘Oh, he’s definitely taking us down.’

“We get in there and I didn’t think it was gonna happen. Sure enough, f*ck, he really did. Let’s be smart about it because I could feel the technique and how strong he was. That’s exactly what we did and as soon as I got the two-on-one, I got up and everything I touched him with just rattled him. It was accurate, it was long, and it was like I couldn’t miss.

“I can imagine in basketball, it was like you couldn’t miss, or the ball was so big that it was too easy to hit it. I would imagine the same thing, like even when I was messing up it was landing big. Cool, just go with it. It’s something that seems so basic, but it’s so tough to explain. Once I get guys hurt, my instinct takes over and I find a way to finish.”

When referee Marc Goddard finally called a stop to the action, Font was jubilant wearing a smile that could be seen from Vegas, all the way to his home city of Haverhill, Mass. He did what he knew he would do and shared that moment with his team.

Once he got back for his post-fight interview, Font became emotional. That’s when the long road back, the rehab, the people who believed he made a mistake taking the fight all popped into his head as he leaped into the top-5 of one of the UFC’s deepest divisions.

“It was like a ‘Yes, I told you so, I knew it kind of moment,” Font stated. “You just enjoy it, it’s the big relief where you just keep smiling. It’s the best feeling where you just want to jump around, giggle and laugh.

“[In the interview] it was weird. It was the first time I got emotional like that. It was coming off the injury, people telling me I shouldn’t have taken this fight. I had a million people telling me to take an easier fight. Like, bro, what are you talking about? Who turns down the No. 3 guy in the world? People telling me to take a tune-up fight like it’s boxing. Who in the UFC is a tune-up fight? Give me a name. Exactly, they’re all tough fights.

“Some people said I shouldn’t even be fighting, that I should wait a little longer. I heard that and it was a no-brainer for us. You saw the result. You hear that stuff for a second, then shut those guys out and get to work. Winning a fight is cool, but getting a finish, putting on a show for everybody is a whole different ball game. You just start crying like a baby, but it felt good though.”

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