Being a participant in the inaugural World Series of Fighting co-feature bout Saturday night hasn’t changed a thing for Marlon Moraes.
No one is clamoring to find out what he has to say about his bantamweight fight with former WEC champion Miguel Torres.
Aside from his picture being placed alongside Torres’ on posters advertising the event, WSOF officials aren’t spending much time touting Moraes’ physical attributes. They don’t have to, no one is asking.
He is an afterthought, or worse, an opponent who is expected to serve as a sacrificial lamb for what is believed to be a highlight-reel performance by Torres.
This fight is viewed as a chance for Torres to reclaim some of the luster that he lost in recent years. It can also serve as a reminder to some just how great a fighter Torres remains despite his recent release from UFC.
To accomplish these goals, two things have to happen Saturday night in Las Vegas: Torres must be on his A-game, and Moraes has to cooperate.
It’s the latter that could prove problematic for Torres. His foe has no intention of being anyone’s punching bag. He also does not envision leaving the cage a loser.
Moraes might be an unknown quantity to most mixed martial arts followers, but he plans to change that with this fight.
This is his time, his coming-out party, and he’s ready to make the most of it.
“Right now I feel good, I’m in a good place, but I’m going to feel much better after the fight,” Moraes told ESPN.com. “That’s when everybody is going to know who I am.
“I’m very confident and I’m very ready. I’m ready, man. This is a great opportunity.
“That’s it! I’m ready.”
A quick glance at Moraes’ professional record offers nothing that jumps out. He’s only 24 years old with an 8-4 mark.
Torres has three times as many wins as Moraes has fights. But a glimpse of Moraes’ record offers a fuzzy picture.
Moraes enters Saturday night’s bout on a two-fight win streak. And it’s what he brought into his two most recent bouts that makes him a potential threat.
He is more dedicated to the sport. Moraes has traveled to various top-level camps to work with some of today’s best mixed martial artists.
As a result, every aspect of his game has improved.
“I’m a more relaxed guy now,” Moraes said. “I used go into fights with a let’s-just-fight attitude. Not now. I’m much more technical. I work on every aspect of my game.
“I worked with the Blackzilians [in Boca Raton, Fla.] and now I’m in New Jersey working with Frankie [Edgar] and Ricardo [Almeida]. I’m just a better fighter now. I’m ready.”
Part of that readiness includes Moraes’ mental makeup. He will step into the cage against Torres confident that no matter where the action goes he will be the better fighter.
These days Moraes is at ease whether standing on the ground or against the cage. But he’d love to convince Torres to keep it on the feet.
“I have an advantage in the standup,” Moraes said. “And I’m going to exploit it.
“I’ve had a lot of Muay Thai fights in Brazil, and MMA too. I’ve been working my standup for a long time, and my jujitsu and my wrestling. I’m ready for wherever the fight goes.
“If he just wants to stand up then lets standup. If he wants to wrestle, that’s okay, let’s wrestle. I’ll go to the ground, let’s fight jujitsu. I’m ready.”
Despite his high level of confidence, Moraes will not attempt to convince himself he has an edge where there is none. One such area is in the experience department.
The 31-year-old Torres has fought most of the best bantamweights mixed martial arts has to offer. There isn’t anything he hasn’t seen or experienced in a fight.
But Moraes remains undaunted.
“I’ve had a lot of fights against guys with a lot of experience,” Moraes said. “It’s not something I’m going to think about; I’m just going to go in there and fight.
“I know what [Torres] has done; I know how good he is. He’s a great fighter. He’s a legend in MMA.
“When I first started in MMA I knew of Miguel Torres. I watched his fights. I know that he is very good. And he always comes ready for the fights.”
What Moraes lacks in experience he believes is made up by the amount of pressure Torres faces. It is difficult to find anyone not closely associated with Moraes who’s picking him to win this fight.
The expectation is that Torres will win and look great doing so. If Torres barely survives, it won’t be considered a good night at the office.
“There is no pressure on me going into this fight,” Moraes said. “The only thing people are asking about me is, ‘Who is this guy fighting Miguel Torres?’ They don’t know anything about me. They expect everything from Miguel Torres. They expect him to win.
“The best way to describe it is that I’m ready. Besides, the timing is right. I’ve been working toward this moment for a long time.
“That’s why I’m so excited about this fight. I want to fight Miguel. I want to test myself against the top guys. And I’m ready.”