Brandon Moreno has been through a lot with Deiveson Figueiredo.
From surprising the combat sports world with a thrilling draw in a makeshift championship bout, to creating the biggest rivalry the UFC flyweight division has ever seen, Moreno and Figueiredo have been on one hell of a journey to become one of the main stories of the post-pandemic era in MMA.
This month at UFC 283 in Brazil, Moreno (21-6-2 MMA, 9-3-2 UFC) ended the first quadrilogy in UFC history. He did so by stopping Figueiredo (21-3-1 MMA, 10-3-1 UFC) with a TKO to reclaim the UFC 125-pound title.
It was a career-defining bout, as Moreno and Figueiredo were tied up 1-1-1.
This championship contest was not only designed to crown the king of the division, but also define a winner of the rivalry – and maybe even more importantly, a loser, who would be put in a very difficult position in terms of future title contention.
“Once they raised my hand, I felt so much peace,” Moreno told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I felt how all this pressure, all this stress, everything that’s happened these last two years, always thinking about the same guy. This fight had a ton on the line. There was a lot that was being played. Whether you want it or not, you felt that pressure. I won and when I got my hand raised, at that moment, I felt peace.”
With a win in his pocket and a world of pressure listed off his shoulders, Moreno celebrated with his team inside the octagon while his smile stretched from ear to ear – opposite to what was happening outside the octagon and into the stands.
The Brazilian crowd wasn’t happy to see their countryman lose. They booed Moreno and forced him to run out of the arena and into the back tunnels, as they were throwing beer and other objects in his direction.
But Moreno didn’t care. After all, he was the UFC champion again.
“I was so happy, enjoying it, and dancing,” Moreno said. “Maybe that’s why they also got more upset, but it was fun. It was fun because as a Mexican, as a Latin American, I don’t excuse it and say it’s good. It was very disrespectful, but you see it in soccer, you see it in wrestling, how the people get fired up and throw stuff at you. Again, I’m not saying it’s good, but I don’t take it personally. I had a lot of fun.”
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The Mexican star fought Figueiredo a total of four times over the course of four different years – 2020, 2021, 2022, and now 2023.
It was a long saga, to say the least, and one that at times had Moreno fed up. But despite the stress and the difficulties experienced, the Figueiredo rivalry left Moreno with plenty to digest.
“Man, it’s something that left me a lot of experience – not only technically,” Moreno explained. “Yes, this rivalry forced me to evolve as an athlete, to see how to better my wrestling, jiu-jitsu, striking in a way. So that’s for starters, that’s obvious. But as a person, I went through so many things.
“From winning the belt, the experience of being a champion, the experience of losing it. As a human being, it also made me better myself, so that’s another thing I’m thankful for with Deiveson. Not only from the professional side and career side, but as a person, this left me with a lot.”
Technically, Moreno feels he became a much more well-rounded fighter throughout this entire process. Not only did he build up his boxing, but he was able to find the perfect balance between his newly acquired skills and his high-level grappling.
From a personal side, the feud with Figueiredo changed him profoundly. He achieved his dream of becoming a UFC champion and made history for Mexico as the first Mexico-born fighter to win a UFC title. He also got a taste of what it is like to lose everything that he worked for his entire career.
The quadriology was a profound experience.
“Winning the title in 2021 changed my life,” Moreno said. “It brought me new things and also new responsibilities, which I wasn’t used to at the time. It’s interesting because the more you go, the more you learn new things. I mentioned how the first UFC main event in Mexico City affected me (back in 2017 vs. Sergio Pettis). All of a sudden I had all this focus, a bunch of interviews, and that at the time affected me because I didn’t have the experience to handle it.
“This time around it was the same. I was champion, and it was double the interviews, double the commitments. Then losing the belt, something which I had fought for years. I lost it in one night, and that hurt. That hurt a lot. But I managed to overcome that and keep in focus and in the present. … All those things forged my mind and my character.”
Now, Moreno sets sight on Alexandre Pantoja – who he believes to be the No. 1 contender in the division and the next deserving challenger.
“The Assassin Baby” wants to return in June to defend his title, but he’d be willing to delay if the UFC were to pay a visit to Mexico around their Independence Day.
“I know that he’s next, at least in my eyes, we’ll see what him and the UFC work out things out, but I’m ready,” Moreno said. “I’m going to rest my body and my mind, because all the stress of all these two years thinking about the Figueiredo, whether you want it or not, it spends your mind a little bit.
“But at the same time, I want to be active. I’d love to fight in June. Nothing is official, but if the UFC decides to go to Mexico in September to host a pay-per-view there, that would be a good reason to wait.”