Brandon Moreno knows a thing or two about rematches, and the reigning UFC flyweight champion of the world said that his evolution as a fighter will prove to be the key to success when he faces a career nemesis at UFC 290.
Moreno takes on Brazilian challenger Alexandre Pantoja in the co-main event at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. It’s a bout that will see the champion facing a challenger who has defeated him twice before. Unsurprisingly, that narrative has been the main topic of conversation leading up to fight night in Las Vegas, but Moreno was keen to remind people that the Brandon Moreno that will face Pantoja this weekend is a very different fighter to the one who lost to the Brazilian in the prior two meetings.
“I don’t like to talk too much about, ‘Oh, I’m a different fighter,’ or whatever, because I don’t even need to talk about it. The people can see it,” he said.
“A lot of fighters say, ‘Oh, I’m a different fighter. I changed so much,’ but then you watch their fights, and it’s kind of the same, you know?
“But my situation… I always give this example (because) it’s very similar. For example, with Charles Oliveira. When he came to the UFC, he was kind of a good fighter. Winning some fights, losing some fights. Getting some bonuses, then losing again.
“But then he started to win, and win, and win, and everybody was like, ‘What happened with this guy!? Why is he just winning?’ Then he got the title, and he lost against Makhachev. Then he got this amazing victory against Beneil Dariush.
“I think it’s very hard to find examples like that, and I feel like that kind of example. I’ve just changed. I’m just different, you know? Talking about the technical part, talking about the mental part. I just want to show that to the world this Saturday. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but man, I’m ready. I’m ready to shine this Saturday.”
Moreno is no stranger to rematches. His rise to the top of the UFC flyweight division coincided with that of Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo, and the pair engaged in four thrilling bouts as they tussled for the title at the top of the 125-pound division.
The pair battled to a draw at UFC 256, before Moreno submitted Figueiredo to capture the title at UFC 263. Figueiredo then edged a decision to recapture the belt at UFC 270 seven months later. Then, after stopping Kai Kara-France to capture the interim title, Moreno faced Figueiredo for the unified title in a fourth matchup at UFC 283 in January. The Mexican stopped Figueiredo in the third round to reclaim the title and set up this weekend’s bout with Pantoja. And, while he is pleased not to be facing Figueiredo for a fifth time, Moreno said he is happy they had their rivalry.
“I always answer the same,” he explained.
“I feel very grateful for Deiveson for what we did in the UFC, in MMA, for our career, for the history of the sport. But, of course, I feel happy at the same time to fight with another guy. I feel this kind of fresh air when I fought Kai Kara-France in Dallas, And this one is the same. I feel very cool.”
Given the two prior meetings, and the fact that Moreno lost both, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Mexican has a chip on his shoulder heading into the matchup. But Moreno said he has no issue with his opponent, even though he is laser-focused on getting the all-important win at UFC 290.
“I’m sorry if I’m not this guy who loves to throw shade on social media or try to make some drama,” he smiled.
“But at the end, that works for me. People love what I’m doing because this is real, it’s natural. So I have nothing personal against Alexandre Pantoja.
“For sure, the competitive part of myself, knowing he has beaten me twice in the past, it gives me a different flavor, for sure. But, at the same time, I’m just thinking about the opportunity.
“If you beat Pantoja in the T-Mobile Arena, International Fight Week, man. Your legacy, man. So I’m just very focused on that last goal, to win my second first title defense.”