Marlon Moraes decided to switch things up in 2022 and begin his first training camp of the year with a few weeks of practice at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand.
But then COVID-19 forced him to change his plans.
Moraes, who is scheduled to face Song Yadong on the UFC’s Fight Night event on March 12, tested positive COVID-19 soon after landing in Bangkok and was sent to a local hospital. Speaking on the most recent edition of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Moraes admitted he feared the worst for his UFC clash against Yadong.
“Am I going to prepare well? Am I getting there well for this fight, a very important fight for me in this moment of my career, a moment where I need this victory, a moment I need to prove my value to the UFC and continue to prove I deserve to be there?” Moraes said.
“Everything happened and I had some doubts, but I went back to training and felt great and saw it would be best for me to fight. I never pulled out of any fights and this [situation] wouldn’t take me out of this one.”
Moraes had previously suffered from COVID before and felt “a bit guilty” he transmitted the disease to his wife and kids at home. The good part of this situation, he said, is that his family was safe in Florida while he stayed isolated in a “hospitel” in Thailand, a hospital-hotel he described as “a bit worse than a hospital because we couldn’t leave the bedroom.”
“It’s one more challenge, really,” Moraes said. “It’s bad. The language barrier and all that, like food at first and communicating with people. The entire hospital was in Thai, no one spoke English, so it was kind of complicated. But we’ll see that as a learning experience. It’s just another thing that makes me worship even more my decision to come and enjoy the days I still have here, the days I was able to train.
“It was hard, I just wanted to leave that place as soon as possible and it kept being postponed and postponed. I ended up there for 11 days. … But we overcome that, man. We’re Brazilian and we can face anything. It wasn’t easy, but I beat that and I’m still here.”
Moraes’ initial plan was to start camp at Tiger Muay Thai then finish it back at American Top Team in Florida, but now he plans stay in Asia and fly straight to Las Vegas two weeks prior to the event.
Feeling as if he’s “never trained so much” in his life after working with the likes of UFC interim bantamweight champion Petr Yan, ONE Championship talent Fabricio Andrade, and “a bunch of Russians,” Moraes lauds the knowledge of coach John Hutchinson and believes he’s improved his boxing skills and conditioning.
“The main thing for me was having the experience of working with Petr Yan’s boxing coach John Hutchinson,” he said. “He’s a young guy that has already conquered two belts, Petr Yan’s and Anatoliy Malykhin over at ONE.”
Moraes is in the midst of a three-fight skid heading into the bout after losing to Cory Sandhagen, Rob Font, and Merab Dvalishvili. Meanwhile, Yadong aims to improve to 8-1-1 inside the octagon against Moraes, who will be Yadong’s toughest challenge to date.
“Song is a dangerous guy who has quick and dangerous hands,” Moraes said. “He doesn’t do much on the ground. He might even try to take me down, he might be working on his wrestling, but that’s not what he does [best], so he might have trouble and feel uncomfortable if he tries that. He doesn’t have a grappling pedigree.
“He’ll stand with me and try to surprise me and knock me out, but I’ll do the exact same thing to him: Try to knock him out, land the better strikes. I think his style matches up well with mine. It’s not an easy fight, we know his qualities, I’ve watched all of his fights and I know everything he does, and I’m ready to face all that. I don’t know if he’s ready to face me. I hope so, because then we’ll put on a great fight.”