Thiago Moises has already been near the top of the mountain in the UFC, and he wants nothing more than to get there again.
Back in 2021, the Contender Series veteran from Brazil was matched up against Islam Makhachev with both fighters competing in a UFC main event for the first time. On that night, Makhachev secured a fourth-round rear-naked choke submission to finish Moises.
The result may not have gone his way that night, but Moises still gained invaluable experience, not to mention the confidence to know he can hang with anybody — even a future champion — in the UFC lightweight division.
“I learned about myself, that I can go out there and do good against the best in the world and beat anybody,” Moises told MMA Fighting. “That’s what I learned about myself.
“[I also learned that] everybody’s beatable. We saw his fight against [Alexander] Volkanovski and he showed a lot of openings in that fight. I was able to take him down. I think everyone is beatable.”
Currently riding a two-fight win streak, Moises hopes to make it three in a row when faces Benoit Saint-Denis on Saturday at UFC Paris. Moises would love to eventually earn his way back to a rematch against Makhachev, and said ideally the fight would take place with a UFC title on the line so the taste of revenge would be that much sweeter — although he’s not sold that Makhachev will still have the belt after he clashes with Charles Oliveira for the second time at UFC 294.
The first Makhachev vs. Oliveira bout was one-way traffic, as Makhachev dominated Oliviera en route to a second-round finish. But Moises expects a much different outcome on Oct. 21.
“I think Charles, he didn’t look good in that [first] fight, and Islam looked very sharp on the feet,” Moises explained. “His wrestling is very good. His jiu-jitsu is very good also. But I think if Charles learned from his mistakes and if his mind is in the right place, and he fights the same way he fought [Beneil] Dariush, I think he has a lot of chances to win that fight.”
As much as Moises would love his own rematch against Makhachev in the future, he’s absolutely backing Oliveira to get the job done in October.
“I’m going to root for Charles,” Moises said. “I hope Charles wins this. He’s a guy who deserves to be the champion. I love his story. A guy who came from nothing and became a champion. His story inspires me. I’m a big fan of his and I hope he wins.”
In regards to his own career, Moises steps into the lion’s den on Saturday when he clashes with French lightweight Saint-Denis, who fights at home for the second straight year as the UFC travels to Paris again.
After enjoying his own homecoming in January with a fight in Brazil, Moises anxiously awaits the raucous reception he’s surely going to receive against Saint-Denis in France.
“I think the crowd is going to go crazy, so I’m pretty excited for that,” Moises said. “Because I have been fighting in the [UFC] APEX for so long, I was missing fighting in front of fans. Fighting in Brazil was great. I loved fighting for the fans again. I’m excited to go to Paris.
“I think the fans are going to go nuts, especially fighting Benoit. People love him there and I’m very excited for this. I’m used to fighting hometown guys also. I was fighting in LFA and RFA, I was always going to someone’s backyard to fight. I’m used to this. It doesn’t change anything.”
Moises anticipates that a win over Saint-Denis will finally propel him back into the lightweight rankings, which was a spot he held before suffering back-to-back losses to Makhachev and Joel Alvarez.
None of that happens without a win on Saturday though, so Moises isn’t looking too far ahead — even if he’s anxiously awaiting the chance to prove himself against top lightweights like Makhachev again.
“I think the next fight is always the most important of your career,” Moises said. “I think a win over [Saint-Denis] is going to put me back in the top 15. I’m going to keep climbing until I get my title shot and my rematch with Islam.
“[Saint-Denis is] a very tough opponent. He’s a very good grappler. He looks very strong but he has a lot of openings. He makes a lot of mistakes, and I’m going to make him pay for that.”