Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno treated MMA fans around the world to an instant classic on Saturday night, and they’ll likely do it again in 2021.
In a fight widely regarded as the greatest flyweight fight in UFC history, Figueiredo and Moreno fought to a draw in the main event of UFC 256. Figueiredo may not have won the fight on the cards, but he still left the APEX with UFC gold wrapped around his waist.
Following the 25-minute showstopper, it was revealed that Figueiredo was dealing with stomach issues—likely food poisoning—the day and night before the event. While the champion took multiple trips to the hospital, as he told ESPN Monday night, he made the walk to the octagon to defend his title for the second time.
While Moreno has a lot of respect for the current flyweight king, he isn’t looking to fondly on Figueiredo discussing his pre-fight medical issues so openly, especially since the No. 1 ranked contender says it’s more common than you might think.
“Man, those are excuses,” Moreno told MMA Fighting. “To be honest, that is very normal. It’s not fun, but it’s normal. I had two fights in the company where I felt very sick and I went to fight. I never said nothing until this moment because they’re excuses. Dana White didn’t need to go to my hotel room and put a gun to my head to say, ‘Hey, you need to go fight.’ No! It’s my responsibility. If he was sick and didn’t feel good, why would he take the fight?
“I understand; he was there. He was the main event. He has a responsibility with the company, but at the end of the day it’s our problem. I can make excuses, too with my arm. To be honest, my left arm in the fifth round was destroyed. Completely destroyed. I tried to go forward, I couldn’t [really] use it in the fifth round. It’s fine, I lost that round. If I lost that night, it’s fine for me.”
“Maybe he’s trying to sell the rematch by saying, ‘Hey, if I was healthy, I’d knock this guy out.’ But, c’mon.”
Regardless of how Moreno views the champion in the aftermath of Saturday night’s contest, he couldn’t have been more proud to be a part of one of the best fights of 2020, despite not leaving Las Vegas with the title wrapped around his waist.
“When I went to the hotel and checked my cell phone, I saw everybody talking about the fight, watched some highlights and was like, ‘This fight was wild,’” Moreno said. “It was hard, though. Figueiredo is the champion for a reason, but I showed to the world that he’s a human being just like me and you.”
While the bout took place mostly on the feet, there were a couple of momentum altering hiccups that took place before the championship rounds. In the second, following a Moreno takedown, the challenger took a slow eye poke from the champion which forced referee Jason Herzog to halt the frenetic action.
In the first of pivotal fouls in the matchup, Moreno felt as if there was more than a singular eye poke in play.
“First of all, I have a lot of respect for Jason – he’s amazing,” Moreno explained. “He’s one of the most amazing referees right now. I don’t know, I understand when you poke one time in the eye. I understand one, maybe even two. But three? Three in a row? I’m not [exactly] sure, I need to watch all the fight again, but I think [my black eye] was from a poke. I felt his finger in my eye three times, at least.”
As tough as that moment was for the challenger, it was a hard low kick from Figueiredo in the third round that left Moreno in serious pain. “The Assassin Baby” was seen writhing in agony, coughing, and trying to find a way back into the fight in an attempt to slow down Figueiredo.
“No problem, I have three kids,” Moreno said when asked if the accidental foul was the most painful thing in his career. “My wife was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t care, it’s fine.’ But it was very painful. That was the first time I really took my time. Normally when that happens I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m fine, I’m fine, I want to fight.’ But Jason Herzog came to me and said, ‘Relax, take your time,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, f*ck, I need to take my time,’ but I tried to go back to the fight really fast because I knew that Figueiredo was getting tired, but I couldn’t do it.
“But after that, I was very angry and finished the third round strong, and I thought I [won] it.”
When the final horn went off, both Figueiredo and Moreno stared at each other and let out primal screams of respect at each another. They realized what they had done, and what they had left to give to the octagon. It was a moment of pride for the Mexican flyweight.
“I was so excited in that moment because I showed the people that I’m real,” Moreno said. “A lot of different media didn’t give me any opportunity to win that fight, and I understand. Figueiredo looked amazing in his last fight with Alex Perez. But I’m just a Mexican kid trying to do something here. Figueiredo is human, and I tried to show the world that I can do something in this sport.”
UFC President Dana White stated that a rematch between the two warriors is imminent for sometime in 2021. After both fighters broke records for fastest turnaround between fights for champion and challenger, White is willing to give both competitors all the time they need to get back after it on full camps.
If it’s up to Moreno, he hopes for a rematch in early spring.
“In a perfect world, I prefer April because I need to recover myself very well,” Moreno explained. “It’ll give me time to get to Tijuana to start training slowly, step by step. Then, of course, training camp, game plan and stuff. I can be ready in March, April is better for me. May or June is too [far away].”