September 7 is a date that mixed martial arts fans across the globe have etched into their calendars, and for a good reason. It marks the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi, where reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will put his undefeated record on the line against interim titleholder Dustin Poirier. The UFC 242 PPV main card will air on ESPN+ in the United States.
Along with the thrilling main event is a series of exciting bouts including Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder and Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos. The fight card is stacked with talent from numerous weight classes and all will have the opportunity to showcase what they’re made of on an international stage.
On the preliminary card, Canada’s Sarah Moras returns to action to take on Liana Jojua, who will be making her debut for the promotion.
Moras spoke to The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko about her upcoming fight on September 7.
Relocating to Vegas
In 2017, the UFC announced that they would be opening the UFC Performance Institute. The $12 million facility was pitched to be game-changing for each and every athlete that walked through its doors, with ‘state of the art’ training equipment and ‘the best’ nutrition experts all in Las Vegas. What more could a fighter want?
Fast forward two years and the institute is a haven for a large number of athletes that have taken advantage of what it has to offer. Stars such as Brian Ortega and Francis Ngannou train there regularly and seem to have reaped the benefits.
One fighter who also relocated to Vegas to make the most out of the UFC Performance Institute is bantamweight Sarah Moras (5-5), who has noticed an incredible difference since training in the world-class establishment.
“I feel like I’m in way better shape,” Moras told John Hyon Ko. “I feel like before I didn’t fully understand all of the nutrition, I figured less is better if you’re trying to lose weight, which doesn’t always help when you’re trying to train a lot. So I really got my nutrition dialed in, and then I got people that can help me any day I want, every day I want, [just] to help me just stay on track. It’s just one less thing I have to worry about when I fight.”
Combat sports athletes often struggle to find their peaks at the correct time, which can ultimately have a detrimental effect on their performance. Some hit the wall during training camp, which can be weeks before the fight; some never find it at all.
Fortunately for Moras, she feels like she will hit her athletic peak at the right time despite having the flu a few weeks ago.
“I’ve known about this fight for a while and I’ve trained pretty [well] for it. I got sick for a bit but I’m fine – it was just a flu that lasted [much] longer than it should have – but I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling in shape, strong and I feel like I’m going to peak at the right time.”
Vegas is a stronghold for mixed martial arts gyms, with many of the worlds best fighters choosing to train there.
One of these gyms is Xtreme Couture, which was founded by UFC legend Randy Couture. It has been home to notable fighters such as Alistair Overeem, Kevin Lee, and former UFC champion Miesha Tate.
Sarah Moras trains out of Xtreme Couture, but for this camp has split her time between there and the Performance Institute. However, the most influential period of her training camp has been training with her boyfriend and fellow fighter Cleve Bentley.
“I’m really working a lot with my boyfriend, slash coach, slash training partner, slash everything. He’s been holding pads a lot for me and we’ve been going over a lot of gameplan stuff, working on my movement and just really try to figure my game out.”
It is a common occurrence for fighters to date fellow fighters, as they can relate to the sacrifice, hardships, and struggles they endure on a daily basis.
Moras appreciates the fact that not only can Bentley relate to her in terms of MMA, but is an ideal training partner during camp.
“He totally understands fight week and the emotions that come along with everything, but he’s also a great training partner. He’s close to my size so it’s perfect when we go to a fight because I have someone that can train with me and can move with me.”
Besides her boyfriend, the Canadian has been training with amateur fighters in the build-up to UFC 242 and feels like she has benefited massively due to the diversity of styles she’s encountered.
“I really like to work with the amateur team at our gym because the guys are closer to my size,” Moras said. “They’re just a really fun group to be around so I really like working with them. So I’ve been working with them, the pro team and just whoever I can, getting as many looks and styles and just trying to figure it all out.”
Moras will be fighting Lina Jojua, who will be making her UFC debut. Jojua has seven professional victories, with five coming by way of submission.
Her opponent hasn’t competed in MMA for 19 months – a huge layoff in a sport as unforeseeable as this one. Moras herself was plagued by injuries and lack of opponents a few years back, leaving her inactive from 2015-2017.
“I had fights lined up for the entire two years [but] two weeks before every fight they fell through. I wasn’t injured the entire time, [I just] didn’t fight. I was in fight camp for two years straight with [around] 12 fights falling through.”
“So yeah, she might’ve had 19 months off, but it doesn’t mean she wasn’t training the entire time, getting ready [and] getting better. So we might see a new her, but you’re also going [to] see a new me.”
MMA gives it’s participants a chance to see the world and fight in front of new audiences, which is important for fighters looking to boost their popularity.
For Moras, Abu Dhabi is a country she has always wanted to visit, and what better way to do it other than for work.
“I’ve fought in the US and Canada and I fought in the UK when I lived out there, but I’ve wanted to fight [out of] the country for a while now and I don’t think I could pick a better place than Abu Dhabi. I’m so excited for this fight. It’s going to be on a great card [in] a great city – I’m so pumped for it.”
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.