Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
By all rights, Marlon Moraes would be justified in being upset with the way the UFC title picture has shaken out over the last few months.
It was Moraes who was first passed over in favor of Jose Aldo for the next shot at bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, this despite defeating Aldo by split decision four months ago. Then, when Aldo was removed from that booking due to travel restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not Moraes who was pegged as his replacement but two-time UFC champion Dominick Cruz. Cejudo now defends his title against Cruz at UFC 249 on May 9.
Moraes still disagrees with the initial selection of Aldo, but when it comes to Cruz he’s more understanding of the matchmakers’ decision.
“To be honest with you, I see with Aldo I didn’t like it, because I see Petr Yan, I see Cory Sandhagen, I see [Aljamain] Sterling, there’s guys out there,” Moraes said during a recent appearance on the What the Heck show. “These guys, they should be fighting. Aldo just lost a fight. It was a close fight, I think I won, but you know, you don’t get a title shot coming off a loss. Sterling has a good streak, Sandhagen has a good streak, and Petr Yan has been impressive lately, so one of those guys should get it and they didn’t.
“But Dominick Cruz, he’s out there, he’s working out, the guy’s been hurt forever. He did a lot for the sport, he did a lot for the division, and he just can’t get going, he can’t stay healthy. At this point, they probably thought let’s do Sterling, but Sterling is hurt. And let’s do Petr Yan, he’s out of the country, he can’t get here in a month, he needs a little bit more time, I think he only can get here in June, this is what I think. Dominick Cruz probably raised his hand and said he’ll fight him and who would say no?
“Dominick Cruz is a big name, I think it’s good for the division to have him back. ‘He gets hurt,’ and this and that, okay, man. I’m a big fan of Dominick Cruz, I think he deserves anything in this sport and if they’re giving him a fight for the title, hopefully he make it. Maybe it’s his last one, we don’t know. He’s always hurt, we never know, and if he’s healthy now, he said yes, he signed the contract, let’s make it happen. Who’s not gonna watch this fight? I’m gonna watch.”
Moraes (23-6-1) has won five of his last six fights, with the lone loss occurring against Cejudo last June in a fight for the vacant bantamweight belt. He rebounded with a narrow win over Aldo and along with the rest of the division then waited for Cejudo’s next opponent to be named.
Cejudo openly campaigned to fight Aldo, which Moraes sees as the main reason for why the matchup was made.
“To get a fight done you just need to have two guys and the main guy right there is Henry,” Moraes said. “Henry is the champion and Henry wants to fight him, that’s why he got the title shot. He didn’t get the title shot because he’s Aldo, he didn’t get the title shot because of his whole resume, because of Dana, he got the title shot because Henry see behind this fight a lot of things that Aldo was bringing in, that Aldo’s a legend and everything else.
“But to be honest, he doesn’t deserve. I think there’s other guys out there that deserve this fight more than he did.”
Cejudo and Aldo were supposed to fight at UFC 250, which was the original event set for May 9. It was to take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil before the UFC was forced to reshuffle its schedule and instead make UFC 249 the May 9 event in Jacksonville, Fla.
Moraes hails from Brazil and currently fights out of Florida, but he didn’t fret over the missed opportunity even as the bantamweight title fight kept changing. Though he’s currently expected to fight Petr Yan on June 13, Moraes made sure to let his manager Ali Abdelaziz (who also manages Cejudo) know that he’s staying ready for UFC 249 if he’s needed.
“I wasn’t expecting to be next,” Moraes said. “There’s guys in the line and me, I’m not gonna keep begging. But, of course, I called Ali and I said, ‘Ali, if anything happen fight week, two weeks to the fight, you can let them know I can fight, I can make weight. I’m training and I’m never gonna let the UFC down.’
“If they ever call me and if they ever think I deserve a fight, I’m here. I’m fighting. I’ll fight Henry or I’ll fight Cruz if I have to. If anything happen to that fight, I can get ready and I can fight.”
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