The Ultimate Fighter
The last time Alex Morono stepped in on short notice for a fight, it was his for UFC debut nearly four-and-a-half years ago. Ironically enough, it was against a teammate of Donald Cerrone’s, and “Cowboy” himself even complimented Morono’s “good, wacky footwork” following his win.
This story, like many do in mixed martial arts, comes full circle as Morono will step into the Octagon on even shorter notice Saturday night, this time with the “legendary” Cerrone himself standing opposite him.
A challenge, no doubt, as Morono managed to cram preparation normally spread out over the course of a handful of weeks-long fight camp into a window of less than 24 hours.
The Houston native was up late playing video games when he received a “very unorthodox” phone call from his Fortis MMA coach Sayif Saud, alerting him to be ready after the news of Diego Sanchez’s removal from the bout.
“Anytime coach Saud calls, I stop, no matter what I’m doing,” Morono said. “I took the call, then went back to the video game to say, ‘Hey guys, I gotta go to sleep.’ I hit a 24 hour fast on Sunday, got the contract and had a one-day fireball fight camp on Monday, flew out here Tuesday, and rock and roll on Saturday. I feel great.”
Luckily for “The Great White,” who wears many hats in the Texas Triangle MMA community, he’ll be joining two of his Fortis teammates on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, who he helped prepare for their respective bouts.
"I'm excited for this challenge. Cowboy has fought the best in the world, he's one of the most recognizable fighters on the planet and again, I couldn't be happier for this challenge."@AlexMoronoMMA talks about fighting Donald Cerrone at #UFCVegas26 🔊⬆️ pic.twitter.com/403wT4f0x3— UFC News (@UFCNews) May 6, 2021
“I have a lot of teammates on this card, with Geoff Neal and Carlos Diego Ferreira both fighting, so I had been going up to Fortis just for the martial arts experience, and helping my teammates,” Morono explained. “I’ve been training so much, it just made so much sense for me to take this fight. The weight cut has been honestly pretty easy, and I know my conditioning is really good right now.”
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Putting in the extra work despite not having a fight date set on the horizon is an unsurprising facet of who the Houston native is as a martial artist — one notoriously known for putting in the work to yield success for his teammates above his own, namely Geoff Neal, who he believes “will be the welterweight champion.”
“It’s awesome, morale is always very high,” Morono said of this particular period of training at Fortis MMA, which he said keeps him sharp and ready for any fight on any given day. He added that the last time he, Ferreira and Neal fought on the same card — ironically on a card headlined by “Cowboy” Cerrone — they all won by way of finish. “I’m hoping we can go for that three-peat again.”
Focusing less of his efforts on the journey to the top of the rankings or propelling himself toward the belt, Morono said he prefers to work toward being a guy that “people will remember for great fights and awesome finishes.”
“I’m down for the fun fight, for the fan fights,” Morono said. “Especially fighting the veterans. I want to do that while the veterans are still around. So, this is as opportunistic as a veteran matchup could ever get.”
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It’s an admirable legacy to work toward for Morono, who brings the “nothing to lose, everything to gain,” mindset into every fight — something that he took into his fight with Anthony Pettis in December and will take into his fight against Cerrone as well.
“I would say he’s arguably got a better ground game [than Pettis], and his striking is great,” the 30-year-old said. “He was preparing for a southpaw wrestler, I’m an orthodox striker, although I did get the second degree on my (jiu-jitsu) black belt.”
While the two are sure to put on a show in their co-main event bout, Morono is simply grateful and excited just to be in the building.
“I thought it was a great fight card and I couldn’t wait to watch it,” Morono said, beaming. “One of my life goals was to be co-main or main, and to be on a poster, because I hang all of the UFC posters that I fight in at my gym. And it’s just cool to be on one of them. I’ve achieved that goal, although getting the fight is not the goal, winning the fight is the goal.”
While championship aspirations aren’t at the forefront of Morono’s motivation, don’t mistake his gratitude for naïveté, or be fooled into thinking he’ll simply let Cerrone best him on Saturday night.
“We are in the fight business, and we need to win,” Morono said. “Winning is our business, that’s how you build your resume. So winning this fight is everything to me.”