In a perfect world, Marlon Moraes would just be a few days away from a showdown with highly touted bantamweight contender Petr Yan.
Sadly that fight fell apart for a number of reasons, and now Yan is instead set to compete for the vacant bantamweight title against Jose Aldo following Henry Cejudo’s surprising retirement at UFC 249.
As disappointed as he was that the Yan fight fell apart, Moraes wasn’t going to waste a lot of time complaining and instead he immediately turned his attention to a different opponent. With many of the top bantamweights already tied up, Moraes now hopes to face former champion Dominick Cruz in his next fight after dreaming of that matchup when he was still the 135-pound champion in the former World Series of Fighting.
According to the Brazilian contender, there’s no bad blood with Cruz and he’s not trying to talk trash for the sake of landing the fight. If anything, Moraes has nothing but respect for Cruz and his accomplishments, which is exactly why he wants the matchup.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Moraes told MMA Fighting when speaking about Cruz. “In my opinion, he’s one of the best of all time. The timing’s perfect. He just come off a title shot, he lost but Dominick’s a legend. Everyone wants to fight him. I thought maybe they were going to have him fight Aldo but he has no opponent and he says he doesn’t want to retire. Why not fight him?
“I’m the No. 1 [ranked], if I’m going to risk it, why not risk against a guy like him? Hopefully he takes the fight. If he doesn’t take it, I’ll fight anybody but hopefully he takes it. It’s a big fight and it could put one of us in a very good position.”
On paper, Moraes would be taking a decided step down in competition to fight Cruz at this stage of his career.
While he’s arguably considered the greatest bantamweight of all time, Cruz is currently coming off of two straight losses with his latest setback happening after nearly four years away from competition due to injury. Add to that, the UFC rankings have Moraes sitting at No. 1 while Cruz is all the way back at No. 11.
“I don’t give a f**k about the rankings,” Moraes said. “That’s Dominick Cruz out there. I want to fight him. It makes a lot of sense. Put us together and it’s going to be a great fight. I’m telling you guys I’m going out there to finish. I’m going to finish my next opponent.
“I think I’ve got all the weapons to beat him. He’s a very good matchup for me. I’m looking forward to fighting him and finish him. I want to finish Dominick Cruz and show who is the best 135er in the world.”
As much as Moraes truly believes he’s the best bantamweight in the UFC right now, he knows there are still a lot of questions lingering from his razor-close fight against Aldo in his most recent performance.
That’s why Moraes is motivated to put on a showcase in his next fight and he thinks facing somebody like Cruz would give him the big stage where he could shine.
“We all know it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, people only remember your last performance,” Moraes said. “Let’s talk about this weekend. Everybody talking about [Gilbert] Burns, how he’s looking and saying he deserves a title shot. We see other guys like Leon Edwards, he’s got like eight victories [in a row] and people just forget. People don’t remember. People don’t remember last weekend.
“I want to get in there and I want to perform. I want to finish somebody. I want to make a statement and I want to show to everybody I’m next. I want to fight and I want that championship fight again and I want to become UFC bantamweight champion.”