It’s fair to say that UFC life has not been smooth sailing for former World Series of Fighting bantamweight title challenger Sheymon Moraes (11-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC).
Prior to making his promotional debut, Moraes was 9-1, with his only loss coming at the hands of two-weight WSOF champion and UFC title challenger Marlon Moraes at WSOF 22.
In his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night Shanghai, Moraes faced a difficult initial test, featherweight phenom Zabit Magomedsharipov. While the Brazilian had his moments, he was largely dominated by the Russian, and in the third round, he was dragged to the ground and submitted via anaconda choke.
Moraes would bounce back with consecutive decision victories against Matt Sayles and Julio Arce, respectively, but at UFC Fight Night Philadelphia, he met Sodiq Yusuff and ended up on the wrong side of a narrow decision after he was knocked down by the 9-1 prospect in the final round.
Saturday, at UFC Fight Night Sacramento, Moraes has the opportunity to turn his fortunes around as he meets Sacramento’s own Andre Fili. While Fili’s UFC career has not been hugely successful, he has a sizeable reputation in the 145-pound division, and a dominant victory over ‘Touchy’ may catapult Moraes up the division.
This is a fact Moraes appeared well aware of when he recently spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock.
“Andre Fili is a big name in the organization, so I think this is going to put me nearer the top of the division,” said Moraes. “I’m excited for this match and I’m going there for a win, I’m not going there to play around. Andre Fili is good, he’s tall for the division and his hands move well, but I think it’s a good match for me. I’m strong, fast, have good skills and I feel ready for everything.”
The task of fighting Fili will only be made more challenging by the fact that he is one of five Team Alpha Male fighters on the card. While other fighters might be daunted by this hometown advantage, Sheymon Moraes not only appears unfazed, but also relishes the opportunity to take on such a task.
“It doesn’t matter! Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog and go there and shock everybody, and I’m excited for this. I just go there, do my job and, back home, enjoy myself. I just want to go there, do my job, and show the world who Sheymon is; that’s the victory.”
Training in Thailand
Like many fighters, Sheymon Moraes has trained in a number of gyms throughout his seven-year professional career. While he has previously trained at Team Nogueira and Team Blackhouse, for this camp, the Brazilian moved back to Phuket, training at both Tiger Muay Thai and Phuket Fight Club.
This was a necessary change for Moraes, as it allowed him to strip away any distractions and focus exclusively on fighting.
“I needed to get a new energy, and I feel good about my last fight, but I think it’s always good to get back to Thailand. I used to live here couple years ago, and here I feel happy and I can train hard; now I can just be focused on training, you know?” said Moraes.
During his time in Thailand, Moraes has worked with some of the country’s most outstanding coaches, notably Leo Elias, who has previously worked with Douglas Lima and Adriano Moraes, and George and Frank Hickman, the trainers of Khalil Rountree Jr. and Alex Volkanovski.
In addition, Moraes has trained alongside some of Thailand’s elite fighters, including 12-3 knockout artist Bruno ‘Robusto’ Miranda. Moraes is clearly immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with Elias and the Hickman’s and feels the improvements he has made have been significant.
“I trained with Leo ten years ago in Bangkok. We’re always together here, and he’s a really close friend of mine, and he’s one of the best coaches now in Thailand. He’s amazing. He teaches me everything; he corrects me on everything, and I’m so happy to train it to him and to get better and better.
“At Tiger, my closest training partner is Bruno ‘Rubusto’ and I work with George and his brother a lot too. They have amazing wrestling, and every day we have new people here, so the training is pretty good. They have a high level of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and have great conditioning coaches, so I feel better, stronger and faster.”
Moving on from defeat
Sheymon Moraes’ bout with ‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuff was undoubtedly a close affair.
Both men had their moments, and aside from Yusuff dropping Moraes in the final round, it was difficult to separate the two rising featherweights. Indeed, even after the knockdown, Moraes continued marching forward against the Contender Series product. Moraes remains convinced that he won the bout, but refuses to dwell on the loss, instead using it as motivation.
“I’ve watched my last fight many times, and everybody talked to me about this and said I won the fight. I’ve watched it five or six times, and I won all the rounds. He knocked me down in the last round, but he couldn’t control me for even fifteen seconds. I got up and went back to work, and I still think I won this fight, but the referees gave to him. It’s okay though, let’s go to the next one.”
Following from the defeat, Moraes’ attitude to training has also changed. Now, he trains simply for himself, and not for any opponent.
“I’m not training for a fight with someone, I train for myself and to get better. I train everything really, and here the only thing I can be focused on is training; I train, eat, sleep and that makes all the difference.”
Competition at the featherweight summit
Featherweight is currently a division not short of contenders. At UFC 240, Max Holloway will defend his title against Frankie Edgar, while the likes of Alex Volkanovski, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Brian Ortega, and Chan Sung Jung are all waiting in the wings for the next opportunity.
Sheymon Moraes is unsure about who will walk out victorious between Holloway and Edgar, suggesting that while Holloway’s striking is obviously outstanding, Edgar’s never-ending stamina may cause problems for ‘Blessed’.
“Max Holloway is a tough guy, he’s tall, he has good timing and good hands. Frankie Edgar is like a robot, he comes forward and his cardio lasts forever. I don’t know who’s going to win, it’s a good fight. I think Max can keep his belt, but Frankie Edgar can shock the world again.”
Should Holloway defend his title once again, he will then have to face the young, hungry contenders that have risen up the 145-pounds division in recent years. Should Sheymon Moraes defeat Andre Fili tonight, he will restart his own charge up the featherweight division. It’s a tall task, but one he seems well up for.