After stopping Brandon Royval in the first round at UFC 255, Brandon Moreno was as surprised as everyone else that his next fight — a shot at a UFC world title — was already on the books before the night ended.
Moreno challenges Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title in the main event of UFC 256. The card takes place Dec. 12 at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, and the headliner features the fastest turnaround for a champion and challenger in UFC history with just three weeks between fights.
Post-fight, “The Assassin Baby” was planning on letting off some steam and eating some delicious food before things quickly changed.
“We went to the house of my manager to eat something, and in that moment is when my manager is calling Mick Maynard,” Moreno told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I was eating a burger from Shake Shack. It was crazy. It was amazing.
“It was weird because when I got the date, I was counting on my fingers and was like, ‘Man, it’s three weeks from here.’ I talked with my head coach and he said, ‘You are ready. You don’t have any injuries, here is the opportunity of your life. Enjoy it. Just do it.’ I was ready for [a title shot] even before the fight with Royval, so let’s go.”
The 26-year-old is unbeaten in his four fights since returning from a brief hiatus from the promotion. After fighting Askar Askarov to a draw in a fight many believed he won, Moreno picked up victories over Royval, Kai Kara-France and Jussier Formiga en route to his first shot at a title.
Ideally, Moreno would’ve enjoyed more time to prepare for Figueiredo, but he believes the fast turnaround will be to his benefit.
“I think it’s better for me,” Moreno said. “I don’t like to wait too much, and this will be my third fight this year. Obviously, I need to make weight again very fast, maybe that’s a health problem in the future, but right now, I don’t care.”
In Figueiredo, Moreno faces a fighter who has won five straight bouts and is a popular choice as the frontrunner for the 2020 Fighter of the Year. “Deus da Guerra” began the year with an opportunity to capture the flyweight title and finished Joseph Benavidez via second-round TKO at February’s UFC Norfolk event, but missed weight which led to the title remaining vacant.
The 32-year-old cashed in on UFC gold five months later in a rematch on Fight Island when he submitted Benavidez in the opening round. Figueiredo went on to pick up a second straight first-round submission win over Alex Perez in the main event of UFC 255 to retain his title.
While many believe Figueiredo has the chance to be a long-reigning titleholder, Moreno is choosing to block out the hype ahead of his championship opportunity.
“He looks amazing, obviously,” Moreno said. “I do think—before the submission—Alex Perez was getting good punches off, but Figueiredo is really good and was able to get the submission in a really close position. He looked strong, but I don’t care. I worked so hard for this opportunity. I want to go to that fight and not respect his abilities. I respect him as an athlete, but in the moment where he and I step into the octagon, I don’t want to respect his abilities.
“I want to go and take everything [from him] and put it in my hands.”
At the UFC 255 post-fight press conference, Figueiredo stated that Moreno said “a lot of bad things” about him in the past and plans to “destroy” the No. 1 contender. When asked about that statement, Moreno wasn’t sure what Figueiredo or his manager Wallid Ismail were talking about.
“I don’t know what the f*ck is happening with Figueiredo,” Moreno said. “He’s lying. It’s weird, and I understand he doesn’t speak English so he needs Wallid. I don’t know Wallid that much, he seems like a good person, but when he tried to be the translator he started to talk too much. I think everybody knows that Wallid put more words in for Figueiredo.
“For me, it’s not personal. I think he’s lying and he’s trying to sell tickets for the boss, and he’s trying to be a trash talker. That’s fine. It’s never personal for me.
“Maybe it’s because after he beat Benavidez for the first time, I said I didn’t like it because he was disrespectful because he didn’t make weight and started to celebrate very badly in the face of Joe. I said that, but that’s it.”
As the flyweight division caps off the 2020 pay-per-view calendar year for the UFC, Moreno is planning on making a lasting impression; for himself, his family, and his country at UFC 256.
“Right now, all the people in Mexico are so excited about this fight against Figueiredo,” Moreno said. “Then you add in Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira and all the people are so happy here in Mexico. It’s history. Just to fight for the title is history for my country. It just tells people that we can find success in this sport.
“I started this sport as a professional around 10 years ago. When I get the belt, it will be awesome. The goal of my professional career [is being the best] and after that, I’ll need more goals and targets. But I will try to enjoy every single moment with my family. After this fight, I need to go on vacation with my family to some nice place and I’ll be the happiest man in the world.”