According to Brandon Moreno, there was just something different in the lead-up to his rematch with Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263.
After their first bout ended in a draw at UFC 256 this past December, Moreno felt that he had a mental edge heading into Saturday night. It was something that he noticed during the pre-fight promotion.
“I have so much respect for Deiveson. Obviously, he tried to make it something special, to put more eyes on the fight, pushed me in the press conference. But actually, when he pushed me, I knew I won the fight. I won the fight there,” Moreno said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
“My confidence was very high and he looked different. He didn’t want to look me in the eyes, he put his sunglasses on, he just looked different. When the fight started, I started very, very hard, I started with really high pace. That was the game plan at first and that was it.”
While their first meeting was a “Fight of the Year” contender and touted by many as the greatest flyweight bout of all-time, Moreno was in complete control at UFC 263. He dropped Figueiredo with a jab in Round 1 and controlled virtually all of the grappling exchanges, right up until he submitted the Brazilian with a rear-naked choke at the 2:26 mark of Round 3.
“At first, I tried to take the neck very fast, but he defends very well,” Moreno said of the fight-ending sequence. “He took my hand, but I kept my body triangle very well. I was very patient in that moment and then I started to fight again with my hands. I got the neck under the chin and that’s it.”
Not only did Moreno become the fourth flyweight champion in UFC history, but he is also the first Mexican-born title holder ever within the Las Vegas-based promotion.
The crowd, all the arena, so many people... So many Mexicans, so many Latinos here in Phoenix, Arizona. I fought here before, before coming to the UFC, so the people know me here in Arizona and definitely, Arizona has a special place in my heart,” he said.
“That will be very special for everybody,” Moreno continued. “Actually, I’ll go to Tijuana next Monday with my parents and man, I want to see it… We have some videos of my gym with a huge TV, 150 people watching the fight and celebrating, very crazy.”
It’s been some kind of journey to the top of the division for Moreno. After dropping back-to-back fights, he was released from the Las Vegas-based promotion in 2018, only to return a little more than a year later. Now, he’s the best 125-pound fighter in the world.
“I’m enjoying this moment because you never know what happens tomorrow, you never know what happens next month,” he said. “I’m enjoying this moment so much. This fight camp was so long, because I prepared myself not just technically, but mentally too. Six months. It was crazy. I definitely need to rest because my mental health is on the line. I need to rest a little bit, but I want to fight one more time this year and we’ll see. I’m so happy right now.”