Marlon Moraes has won four in a row, three of them finishes. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Marlon Moraes woke up on the morning of Nov. 19, 2011, he possessed a middling 6-4-1 professional record, having been submitted by Deividas Taurosevicius in the first round of their bout for the Ring of Combat featherweight championship the night before. Exactly 14 days later, he was something else entirely.
That was when he dropped to bantamweight for the first time and beat Chris Manuel in a hard-fought unanimous decision under the Xtreme Fighting Championships banner. It was the first victory of his current four-fight winning streak, which includes a 47-second obliteration of Jarrod Card, a split decision over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Miguel Torres and a first-round walloping of Tyson Nam. The ferocity of those performances -- the last two of which came within the confines of the World Series of Fighting cage -- propelled Moraes to a top 10 world ranking and cemented his position as a bona fide star with the fledgling WSOF promotion.
Now sitting pretty at 10-4-1, Moraes will face Team Sklavos representative Brandon Hempleman in a World Series of Fighting 4 bantamweight showcase on Saturday at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. According to Moraes, his winning streak involves more than just a drop in weight class.
“Sometimes people get better fast, but I needed a little bit more time than other fighters,” he said in an exclusive interview with Sherdog.com. “I’m feeling a progression now. I’ve been fighting well and I feel comfortable. It’s the time.”
The timing-is-everything concept is not foreign to Moraes. He has tried to capitalize on the opportunities life has presented him ever since he was a kid growing up in Nova Fribugo, Brazil.
“I started to train kickboxing when I was a kid,” he said. “I was at the gym and my coach said, ‘I have a fight for you,’ so I fought. I was 9 years old.”
Starting out so early worked out well for Moraes, who went on to become a two-time Brazilian national champion in muay Thai. When he was 18, he once again found himself in the right place at the right time.
“A guy was doing a tournament in my town and he said, ‘Man, I have a fight for you,’ so I said, ‘OK,’” Moraes recalled.
“I thought it was going to be a kickboxing fight, but he said, ‘No, man. You’re going to fight MMA,’ so I said, ‘Alright, let’s go,’ and I went out there and fought. That’s how I got into the sport.”
Two years ago, Moraes made the decision to leave Brazil and move to the United States. He was followed shortly thereafter by his girlfriend, to whom he is now married. These days, Moraes can be found bouncing back and forth between Florida, where he trains with Valor Martial Arts, and New Jersey, where he trains with Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu, alongside the likes of Edson Barboza and former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar.
“The people I train with train hard,” Moraes said. “They give my training a push. I think the transition coming from Brazil to the United States was a good one for me because of the coaches and the training.”
Moraes feels the discipline and structure have been integral components in his development as a fighter.
“The transition to MMA for me was kind of hard because kickboxing is so different,” he said. “I love kickboxing, but now I’m having fun fighting MMA, too. It’s great to go to the gym knowing that every day I’ll be learning something.”
So it is this confluence of events -- the decision to drop to 135 pounds, the decision to leave the country of his birth and the decision to put in enough time and training to feel comfortable in his own skin as a mixed martial arts practitioner -- that has brought Moraes to a place where he is regarded as one of the best in the world in his weight class.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’m happy. I’m just looking forward to my next fight.”
Enter Hempleman, who heads into their WSOF 4 matchup with an impressive 9-1 record and his own six-fight winning streak. Moraes welcomes the challenge with open arms.
“I want to fight the best guys in the world,” he said. “For me, Brandon is one of those guys. To be fighting him is kind of like a dream come true. I am fighting with a tough guy, and I want to focus on fights with those guys. Fighting with him is an honor, and it’s what I want.”
Moraes exudes an infectious sort of enthusiasm when discussing the state of his career. He appears to have his timing down and seems to be firing on all cylinders, inside and outside of the cage. The 25-year-old will soon have a chance to prove his worth yet again.
“I’m ready,” Moraes said. “My fight is going to be awesome.”