Marlon Moraes: 'I can beat anybody' - NBC Sports

Marlon Moraes: 'I can beat anybody'
WSOF champ talks New Jersey lingo and Top 10 ranking
March 19, 2014, 10:45 am

He grew up in Rio de Janeiro in a favela, a crime-ravaged hillside town filled with dilapidated shacks that would make even lower-class Americans think, 'I've got it good compared to them.' Money was so scarce, his house so small, that Marlon Moraes slept nightly in the same bedroom with his parents. Like virtually every kid who grows up in Brazil's most desperate and violent wasteland, he dreamed of someday becoming a professional soccer player. But the athletically-gifted boy's love of soccer was eventually eclipsed by his love of the Art of Eight Limbs (Muay Thai.)

And when Moraes, now 25, tells you that he didn't get into fighting to make a lot of money or build his name, that he would fight for free for the WSOF bantamweight belt, you instantly recognize that it might not be the smartest thing to say to a promoter but it comes straight from the young man's heart. When Moraes fights, any fight fan will feel compelled to watch. The visceral fury of his attacking style is both intoxicating and contagious. He fits nicely into the mold of a younger Chuck Liddell or Wanderlei Silva – a crowd-favorite who always presses for the finish. A confident knockout artist who disdains playing it safe.

Moraes, one of MMA's most exciting fighters and elite bantamweights, is also blessed at a young age with a firm sense of precisely who he is. He's a gentleman outside the cage and a lion inside of it. He is happily married but jokes that he has “got more pictures with my dog (a beagle) than my wife.” He's a simple man whose game has exploded since he began training a few years ago with Ricardo Almeida and former UFC champ Frankie Edgar in New Jersey. And here's the funny part – he's not a Jersey Boy but clearly the Jersey lingo is rubbing off on him. The  Brazilian's vocabulary is now heavily sprinkled with the words “bro,” “you know what I'm sayin'?” and “back in the day.” ranks Moraes at No. 10 among MMA best 135-pounders. But Moraes (12-4, unbeaten for past two years) thinks he belongs much higher and sees himself in the same class as Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. Moraes recently spoke with me about his upcoming WSOF title fight with Josh Rettinghouse, life in New Jersey, and the changes that catapulted him from an above-average fighter to a must-see juggernaut.

In Moraes' own words:


I don't live in New Jersey, I live in Florida. But the last 9 weeks of my training camps I train in New Jersey with Ricardo Almeida and Frankie Edgar. It's a lot different than when I grew up in Rio (de Janeiro). It's a challenge because it's so cold, but it's good to get out of your comfort zone. It makes you stronger.


It's hard to understand what a lot of people are saying but I have a good time in New Jersey; the people there are so passionate. They usually speak really fast but when I first got there they would speak slow with me. Now I can understand what everyone is saying.

Man, one of the phrases I have learned in New Jersey ... They keep saying', 'You know what I'm sayin'? Know what I'm sayin'? (laughs).' They say that all the time. It confused me at first, especially because they say it so fast. I've learned the word “dude” from them, too. And “back in the day.” I use that and might have learned that from them, too.


 I feel that I can beat anybody. Because I have weapons that can work against the best guys in the world. I'm ready to fight the best guys. I just need a good training camp. I'm ready to get the title and shock the world.


Aldo is one of my favorite fighters; I like him a lot. His takedown defense is unbelievable and he's so fast – the difference with him is his speed. I watched his fight with Ricardo Lamas and it was like Aldo was moving at 100 mph and Lamas at 45 mph. Lamas was thinking too much. Aldo was winning the fight and didn't want to take chances. But, you know, I think if Lamas had pushed the pace more he could have (scored) a knockout. I think Aldo would probably have knocked him out (if Lamas had been more aggressive), but at least Lamas would have had a chance to win. Aldo was pacing and Lamas looked like he was (content) to go the distance.

Like Urijah Faber did this time (against Renan Barao)– he stepped up and went there to fight, man. He didn't give a s---, he went for it. When you fight with those guys you have to fight like that. You can't respect them too much.

Barao is great. He's got good jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking. But, man, he doesn't frighten me. I can see myself fighting against him. But I don't how he's going to deal when he fights me. I don't know what he would try to do – whether he will try to get takedowns – because if he keeps the fight on the feet I am gonna be trouble for him. I can guarantee, bro.

When Michael McDonald put Renan in trouble a little bit, he tried to take him (McDonald) down. But, man, my takedown defense is much better than McDonald's. So this is how I see this guys.


That's my style, I'm a striker. I don't like to go the distance. If I have to, I'll be ready, but in MMA if the guy gives you a chance you've got to finish, man. That's what the people want to see. That's why we work so hard.


He's a well-rounded, good fighter. He can fight on the feet or on the ground. He's got good takedown defense. This sport is tough, man; everybody is close. The same way I think (my skill) is close to Aldo and Renan, this guy is close to me. I have a lot of respect for Josh Rettinghouse and how he beat Alexis Vila. He proved that he can fight anywhere. So I'm going to be ready and train hard for this fight. It doesn't matter where the fight goes.


The belt means more to me than any money in the world. When I first started training I was aiming for trophies and the belt. Even if I didn't get paid I would still fight because I want the belt. I'm hungry, man, and I want to fight and prove myself. I've seen a lot of guys win the title and they start to slow down (fight conservative). I' won't slow myself down. I'm always going to be pushing.


The main thing for me is my confidence. Now I know how to fight MMA. I'm more experienced in the game and pretty confident. It doesn't matter if the fight goes the distance or not, I'm going to be ready to fight. Back in the day I don't know if my mind was ready. I don't know if I understood the game. It's a hard sport, man. Now I have a good training camp and every day I'm learning more, so I'm getting confident, man. Each day I'm getting better and I can't wait to fight with the best guys in the world.


I watch movies a lot. I like “American Daddy” the cartoon. I'm starting to even like American football (NFL) now that I understand what's going on with it. Here in America you can buy nice brands of clothes and live well. In Brazil we have tough times. One of the most important things is that here in America I feel safe. Sometimes when I'm home in America I don't even lock my front door. In Brazil it's not like that; you have to lock your day every day and be worried that somebody will break into your house or, if you're on the street driving you worry about being robbed. Here in America I don't think about those things and that's great.


I went to school and to college. When I was young I was a soccer player. My big dream was to be a soccer player because my dad was. That is 100 percent the dream of every kid in Brazil when they are young – to be a soccer player.

But then I started training in fighting and I fell in love with it. And I'll tell you the truth: When I started training I didn't think about money. I did it just because I loved it. I think that sometimes, today, most of the kids see World Series of Fighting or UFC and they think, 'Man, I want to do that because I can make money doing that.' But this mentality has to change. They should think, 'I have to do what I love to do.' You don't have to choose something because of money.


I didn't have three pairs of shoes – I had one pair. Growing up we lived in small house in a favela.  I slept in the same bedroom with my parents.

But I can't complain much. To me it wasn't that bad. It was tough but I was happy. My parents worked so hard even though they didn't make good money. My mom use to clean houses and she did everything for me. My father also.

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