UFC 263 was a massive night for mixed martial arts, and it was also a night that made history. There have only been three champions in that division, and they were all dominant title runs. So when Mexico’s Brandon Moreno fought Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo for the UFC Flyweight championship in a tightly contested rematch of their previous draw, the world watched anxiously.
The fight started with Moreno keeping his distance and landing great shots from the outside as he used his reach advantage to knock his opponent down with a stiff jab in the first round, but Deiveson recovered while and until the bell rang.
When the 2nd round started, Deiveson’s game plan changed, and he successfully landed a takedown but couldn’t do too much damage on top. Moreno had one butterfly hook in and defended himself until he stood up and landed a takedown of his own staying on top for most of the round until finally taking Deiveison’s back as round two ended.
The third round started, and Brandon kept his distance until he got a body lock takedown and retook Deiveson’s back with 4 minutes left to finish off the choke. And even though Figueiredo’s defense was good early, Brandon Moreno successfully finished the choke in 2 minutes and 26 seconds of round three to gain the title in spectacular fashion.
The crowd roared, and many Mexican flags were waving in the Gila River Arena located in Glendale, Arizona as Brandon looked around, almost in disbelief that he was the new king of the flyweight division.
He got on his knees and the emotions caught up. Fifteen years of sacrifices mixed with great days and dark days finally paid off. The son of a modest family who owned a piñata business in Tijuana, Mexico and the last seed of “The Ultimate Fighter” season 24 who was eventually cut from the UFC two years ago, is now Mexico’s first UFC champion.
The number of tears cried while he held his daughters is a a moment forever embedded in sports history. He spoke in Spanish to address his fans in the arena and at home with, “I’m from a country where we yell “We can do it!” but we don’t really succeed as often, but today, we did it!”.
Mexico is no stranger to combat sports. They have over 200 professional boxing champions in their fighting history and are known for their tough, forward moving fighting style.
Boxing became a professional sport in the 1920s, and in the 1930s they had their first Mexican boxer, Miguel Angel Febles, who started training in Cuba before he returned to his homeland.
Mexican boxers start training young,, and it is one of the hot spots for modern training camps due to their elevation. It is the land of warriors going back to the indigenous era of the country, and it shows in the squared circle.
The fight culture in the country is prevalent when it comes to boxing, but the understanding of the ground game was an obstacle. There is a pattern in Latin America regarding their fighting style and not being aware of the ground game. However, Brandon Moreno, a jiu-jitsu black belt under Raul Arvizu, proved that no matter where the fight went, he had the advantage.
After the historical night, there was a massive mural drawn over night of him in his hometown of Tijuana displaying him, hand raised as he celebrated his iconic victory and as soon as he arrived at his home gym, Entram Gym, a mariachi band played accompanied by a crowd waiting to celebrate his historic championship win.
The man who went unrecognized in his hometown a year ago became a hero—now recognized as one of the greatest fighters of Tijuana’s rich fighting culture along side greats like Antonio Margarito and Erik “Terrible” Morales.
The future of the flyweight division has so many exciting matchups for the newly crowned king of the weight class. There are talks of him fighting former flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, who used to be his main training partner earlier in Moreno’s career. Also a possibility is another rematch with Figueiredo, but Deiveson talked about moving up to the bantamweight division due to his history with weight cutting issues.
The flyweight division was almost cut from the promotion because of poor ratings when Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was the reigning champion even though he kept delivering dominating performances. But now it seems to be one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC due to the speed and technically savvy of the it’s fighters and Morena appears to have real star power.
The fight game can be very rewarding, but also very unforgiving. The Assassin Baby proved that it doesn’t matter how many obstacles are in your way; you can achieve whatever you want just as long as you keep working on your goals. He has been an underdog in all of his fights, and keeps proving everyone wrong with every win. His championship victory should inspire many fighters from all over the world to keep chasing their dreams no matter where they are from.
You can’t “play” fighting because it’s not a game it’s an art form. The passion Brandon Moreno puts into his craft in every loss or a victory always shows regardless of the outcome, and that desire should be a reminder that every fighter with a passion for what they do has a fighting chance.
Gian Carlo is a 10th Planet Blue Belt and a comedian from Puerto Rico. He currently resides in Albuquerque where he trains under “Nasty” Nate Harris, and hosts 2 podcasts (Unemployed Commentators & The Shoot)