UFC 2022 brings its first pay-per-view to the Honda Center in Anaheim, which includes a heavyweight title fight between former training partners.
It’s challenging to create a better story for UFC 270 on Saturday than Hawking champion Francis Nganou’s first title defense, ending his 10 of 11 wins at the Octagon via brutal knockout, against interim champion Cyril Gain, Unbeaten and virtually without a challenge. His 10 UFC bouts.
The co-main event, however, is a delicious trilogy title contest in the lightest male category. The prospect of Brandon Moreno, making his first flyweight title defense, is making fans salivating as he faces off against former champion Divason Figueredo.
But this UFC 270 card has an undercurrent that is more ripple than Ripple.
The rising tide is in the form of Moreno, who became the UFC’s first Mexican-born champion when Figueredo was dethroned in June. And the boats being raised are Latin American fighters benefiting from the Moreno meteorite.
UFC president Dana White, with his background and affinity for boxing, has long set his eyes on MMA flourishing in Mexico. “It took longer than I thought. But it doesn’t make any sense because those guys have boxing gloves running through their veins,” White said.
Patterns developed for the game’s rise in other countries, based largely on fans’ aspirations to become champions such as Conor McGregor in Ireland, Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesaniya and Nganou in Nigeria, and Robert Whitaker and Alexander Volkanowski in New Zealand and Australia. Were.
So White knew what was going to happen in Mexico.
“What you have to do is you have to get the younger generation training in MMA. And you have Mexican-born champions, and now we finally have one,” White said.
And the flashpoint for the revolution may be in Tijuana.
create a culture
Known as “The Assassin’s Baby,” the 125-pound king will do nothing to stop him from Saturday’s mission.
Moreno and Figueredo played out a majority draw 13 months ago, then Moreno tapped the Brazilian champion in the third round in June to win the belt.
Their third fight comes with Figueredo, who enthusiastically and decently greeted an emotional Moreno seven months ago, spoiling the Tijuana native for some old bad blood involving his new coach, former UFC double-champ Henry Cejudo. Gave.
“He’s trying to sell the fight. Yeah, that’s not my way. I respect him,” Moreno said.
Moreno shrugged off the nonsense. He wants to highlight the fact that he is joined in this card on Saturday by three teammates from Raul Arvizu’s Antrum Gym in Tijuana.
“The most important thing right now is extra motivation. You know, because think about moments like this,” Moreno said with a wide smile. “Four or five years ago? Yeah, I mean, four guys from the Mexican mixed martial arts team fighting in a pay-per-view card?”
Lightweight Gennaro Valdez and welterweight Michael Morales made their UFC debuts. Strawweight Silvana Gomez is looking for revenge for the first time in the Juarez Octagon. Having all four of our customers on the same card has been as convenient as it has been for manager Jason House.
“This team has a great culture, they are family, and it means the world to me. I think what Brandon has done has really opened the doors to these opportunities for other teammates,” House said said.
Moreno saw the UFC start its Latin American development program in 2012. He was one of several sent to Albuquerque in 2014 – all expenses paid – to train and develop the sport. Then came the reality show series “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America”, but as soon as the fighters were signed, many of them were later released.
Moreno himself was in a flurry of 125-pounders in 2018, as the flyweight division was on its deathbed. He went on to win the LFA flyweight title and signed back to the UFC in 2019.
Since then, he has gone 4-0-2 in the UFC, winning the belt and helping to bolster a Tijuana team of fighters.
And in case you weren’t sure of Moreno’s emotional investment in his teammates, footage of him in Valdez’s corner for a second-round TKO win over Patrick White, including a blustery and breathtaking first on October 5 over Dana White’s contender. The round was characteristic. The series tells the story.
Moreno’s teammates are filled with gratitude. To be part of fight week at the Anaheim Hilton for UFC 270?
a dream, They said. a dream.
“It’s like a dream because I watch UFC for the second time on TV,” said Valdez (10-0), who fights Matt Frevola. “And I say, ‘One day, I live here.’ And some of my friends are fighting in UFC, when I go home and watch UFC… one day, one day I feel like I’ll live my dream.
Valdez started boxing at the age of 13. After the death of his father, he took a few years off, then jumped back into MMA at the age of 20.
Now claiming a record of 34 and 10-0, Valdez had his first pro MMA fight since starting in Antram nearly six years earlier. He said he slept on the gym floor, sometimes struggling to earn enough money for food or medical care.
“He has been one of the top talents in Mexico for a long time and has an amazing record,” House said. “I thought this past season was one of the best performances of all (contenders series), and we’re so excited to see him make his first walk in the Octagon,” he said.
As for Valdez sleeping on the floor in Antram? The gym now has four floors, with apartments and rooms for fighter jets.
“Our head coach, Raul, he built a little neighborhood, you know, he built some rooms,” Moreno said. “All these dreams come with helping each other and, yes, hopefully a new generation of fighters coming from Latin America this year.”
Morales is one of them. The 6-foot-tall 170-pounder, undefeated like Valdez and making his UFC debut, is only 22 years old and arrived in Antram from Ecuador.
Morales’s parents are judo black belts, so he was training at the age of 5. Ten years later, he switched to MMA and fell in love with the subjects. He made his Pro MMA debut soon after turning 18 and is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Nikolay Vertetnikov at Dana White’s Contender Series in September.
Morales (12-0), who took on Travin Giles on Saturday, couldn’t stop smiling on Wednesday. “Brandon is everyone’s inspiration. Thanks to Brandon, we all new fighters have more opportunities,” he said through a translator.
Juarez, 37, is another South American import. She was fighting over the regional landscape around South America before stepping into Tijuana and feeling welcome.
The Argentine strawweight, who was due to appear in Dana White’s Contender Series on October 12, made her UFC debut on just a few days’ notice and lost to Lupi Godinez in the opening round.
Now Juarez (6-3) has set up a full camp to prepare for Vanessa Demopoulos on Saturday.
“That’s everything I’ve worked for to get here,” Juarez said through a translator. “It is something that feels like the experience is better than words. Being around Brandon and being around camp is something that is indescribable.”
Moreno just doesn’t talk when it comes to his Antrum teammates. He hosts them at his Las Vegas home and takes them to the UFC Performance Institute, where he receives elite training and nutrition and tips on maximizing his career.
For Moreno, he wants to build a legacy, not just his future and that of the family.
“The impact of all these good moments in my life is helping other people make their dreams come true,” Moreno said. “That’s why I’m connecting the UFC with Latin American fighters. Now it’s their job to do it, fight in the UFC and win their fights. And I’m very happy to be a small part of this journey.”
Where: honda center
how to see: Preliminary Exam (3 p.m., ESPN+); Preliminary Exam (5 p.m., ESPN/ESPN+); Key Card (7 p.m., PPV via ESPN+)