It doesn’t take much time around Brandon Moreno before you can tell he’s a good hang. Always laughing, smiling, dancing or joking, “The Baby Assassin” has plenty to appreciate right now.
Although his return to the UFC ended in a draw, his follow-up against Kai Kara-France at UFC 245 saw Moreno’s hand raised inside the Octagon for the first time since 2017. The win was not only monumental for that fact, but also because it allowed Moreno to take over the wave of hype surrounding Kara-France and turn it into a bout with Jussier Formiga this weekend that could catapult him into the flyweight title picture. While the mention of a title shot brings Moreno’s easy smile to his face, he is well-aware of the challenge ahead.
“I have Formiga first in my mind,” Moreno said. “I need to beat that guy. I need to get this guy out of my way. I need to win this fight, and then I can think about the title.”
Formiga is much more than a steppingstone to the title. He is very much in the conversation as well. It was only one fight ago that Formiga squared off with Joseph Benavidez last June in a rematch to, at the time, determine the next flyweight title challenger. A second-round TKO sent Benavidez off to an eventual bout for the vacant title against Deiveson Figueiredo, whom Formiga beat a little more than a year ago.
All that considered, Moreno feels like he’s in the perfect situation. His bout with Kara-France allowed the Mexican to showcase his revamped striking ability, and Formiga, who carries 10 submissions on his record, opens the door to a more well-rounded fight. “My style is perfect for him because is really good with wrestling, jiu-jitsu, but me too,” Moreno said. “I’m a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I have a lot of experience in that. And my striking has evolved.”
That evolution was on full display against Kara-France. Although the New Zealander landed the heavier shots in the first round, Moreno’s pressure and adjustments overwhelmed his opponent, and he walked away with a unanimous decision victory.
Moreno credits a new boxing coach, Drift Cortes, with helping him enhance his striking, which opens Moreno up to feel confident wherever the fight may lead.
“I feel more comfortable in the cage,” Moreno said. “Before, I feel like I just want to take the guy down, just control him, win really fast with a submission, and that’s it. But right now, I try to put more risk in the fights, and I don’t care to take some punches in my face. I just want to win the fight.”
Moreno’s focus, even when prodded about fighting Formiga in Brazil, remains locked on ending the night with his hand raised, regardless of where the fight takes place. Although the bout is Moreno’s first in the country, he is unfazed.
He is also unbothered when asked to consider the big-picture implications surrounding his fight and the potential rematch between Figueiredo and Benavidez. Moreno knows the UFC will make the fight that makes the most sense, and it’s up to him to make something happen for himself, something he is relaxed and sure about.
“I’m excited for this fight because I know if I win this fight, something huge is coming,” he said.
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