“Maybe,” he said Tuesday on What the Heck. “The thing is, the fight was so dominant, so at least me the athlete, I’m not interested, to be honest.”
After dethroning the Brazilian champ in a rematch at UFC 263, Moreno is set on fighting again in his home country of Mexico, which he said the promotion is already working on for a return he expects to take place in 2022.
Figueiredo on Monday opened the possibility of moving up to the bantamweight division in the event an immediate trilogy with Moreno didn’t materialize. Right now, the new champ agrees his two-time foe should probably regroup in a new division.
“Maybe in the future,” Moreno offered. “Cody Garbrandt is there. He’s a former champ, so it can be an interesting fight. I want to see him competing at 135 to see if he can make the weight.”
After a draw and “Fight of the Year” candidate in their first meeting at UFC 256, Moreno outworked Figueiredo early and scrambled to a quick submission in the third round of UFC 263’s co-headliner, making him the first Mexican-born champion in the promotion’s history.
Moreno, however, believes he won the fight two days before, when he and his opponent showed up at the press conference for the event this past Thursday in Glendale, Ariz.
With five appearances in Arizona on the regional circuit, Moreno felt like the favorite, and the audience certainly backed him up. Then Figueiredo acted uncharacteristically hot-headed, shoving him at the staredowns, and he felt more confident than ever.
“Actually, I won,” Moreno said. “I really believe I won the fight there. I saw Deiveson different, with keeping his sunglasses and trying to distract himself, pushing me, trying so hard to be the bad guy. That was unnecessary.”
Moreno’s confidence turned to panic, though, when Figueiredo took almost two hours to hit the scale for the official UFC 263 weigh-ins on Friday. The 27-year-old challenger had spent six months in camp, draining himself mentally and physically after taking their first meeting on three weeks’ notice.
“If the guy doesn’t put his butt on the scale, maybe the fight can be cancelled,” Moreno said. “So I was very scared.”
Then a teammate messaged him on Whatsapp that Figueiredo took the scale, and all was right. Moreno’s plan was to punish the champ for that steep weight cut. He and his coaches noticed the Brazilian didn’t like being pushed backward in the octagon, so they resolved to take the initiative early.
“Attack the body, because we knew he cut too much weight, and try to win in the scrambles on the takedowns, and most importantly, put a lot of pressure on him,” he said. “I was ready to die if necessary to get the title. I knew when I stepped into the octagon, I am the best, and that’s it.”
An early scramble put Moreno in position for a choke, and at the 2:26 mark of the third round, Figueiredo tapped and made him the new UFC flyweight champion.
Overcome with emotion, Moreno seemingly walked on air as he took in the moment at Gila River Arena. His teammates and family packed the octagon as UFC President Dana White slung the belt on his shoulder. The rawness of his expression resonated with the crowd, which had already cast Figueiredo as the heel, booing him throughout the week.
Five years earlier, Moreno was the lowest seed on The Ultimate Fighter 24 designed to crown the next title challenger. Two years later, he was released from the promotion on a two-fight skid before getting a new offer. He fought to a disappointing draw against another top contender, Askar Askarov.
“That moment was a lot of peace in my soul,” Moreno said of his title win. “Right now, I can touch my work, and that was unbelievable in that moment.”
That work currently resides at home after trips to his Tijuana gym, where his teammates went viral with a raucous celebration of his upset (one also got a tattoo to commemorate his victory), and his parent’s house, where he spoke on What the Heck with his left eye still damaged from the fight.
“Today is Tuesday, and I started to feel like it’s real, but Sunday morning, Monday morning even, was like, man, this moment is surreal,” he said.
If Figueiredo isn’t next, Moreno wouldn’t mind giving the shot to the winner of a fight between Askarov and one-time title challenger Alex Perez. But after such a long road, he’s happy to sit back and soak it all in.
“Right now, I feel like Iron Man,” he said.