After Being “Overlooked” in UFC Debut, John Moraga “Excited” to Fight Flyweight Contender Chris Cariaso
Although John Moraga made his way to the UFC earlier this year with a 11-1 record and a five fight winning streak, much of the spotlight remained focus on his first Octagon opponent Ulysses Gomez, prior to their meeting at UFC on FOX 4. Of course, Gomez garnered plenty of attention for good reason, due to the Las Vegas fighter’s impressive resume and former reign as Tachi Palace Fight champ. As a result, the stage was set for Moraga to make a big impact in his UFC debut on August 4th and he did just that, by knocking out Gomez in the first round.
“Yeah I was definitely overlooked but I knew that was going to happen,” Moraga said on Full Contact Fighter Radio recently. “It just comes with the way my career had led up to. I didn’t really have too much exposure and I didn’t have very many knockouts in the past. There were a lot of different factors into why people didn’t see.”
The UFC, however, took notice of Moraga due to the Arizona fighter’s successes while competing for regional organizations like Rage in the Cage, as well as his affiliation with renowned gyms like Arizona Combat Sports and the MMA Lab.
“When I first started wrestling, I’m from Maryvale here in Phoenix, our motto is ‘don’t talk about it, be about it,’ Moraga furthered. “So I didn’t really feel the need to explain it to anybody; I just go out there and show you.”
Having shown the MMA world what he’s capable of doing in dramatic fashion at UFC on FOX 4, Moraga has been tapped to fight another of the flyweight division’s rising fighters in Chris Cariaso. The two will meet on December 29th at UFC 155 in Las Vegas.
“Cariaso is right up there so this will definitely be a very big win for me,” said Moraga, while discussing what’s riding on his fight with Cariaso, who has gone 4-1 to date in the UFC and has won three straight. “I’m just excited for it. I embrace it; I’m ready.”
With Demetrious Johnson having been crowned as the UFC’s first flyweight champion, and set to defend the belt versus Jon Dodson on January 26th, the battle for title shot contention is now in full swing.
“It’s definitely getting to the point where there are a lot of interesting things going on,” Moraga noted about the UFC flyweight division. “People are starting to get familiar with the fighters in the division. It’s getting exciting; it’s taking off pretty quick.”
In Cariaso, Moraga will face a highly decorated striker, whose only loss to date with the UFC came against top bantamweight contender Michael McDonald, who scored a split decision win over him last May.
“I haven’t seen any of his fights,” said Moraga, who has gone undefeated except for a unanimous decision loss he incurred versus Dodson in December, 2010. “I’ve seen some of his highlights…I do know that it’s going to be a tough fight. Anything in the UFC isn’t going to be easy.”
“I know he has a good striking background so I’ll be ready for it,” Moraga added. “I don’t care. Whoever they put in front of me, whether they’re good at striking, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, I don’t care. I feel confident in myself.”
Although the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and Two Time All-American transitioned into MMA with highly developed wrestling skills, Moraga has worked hard to develop into a more well rounded and dangerous fighter.
“I’ve never actually really considered myself to be a wrestler,” the 29 year-old fighter admitted. “I think every time I step into the gym my coaches are always like ‘use your wrestling; you like to stand up too much,’ and I was like ‘nah, I like this better.’ I’m a fighter at heart. If it came down to it I’ve got my wrestling to fall back on but I like to fight.”
UFC 155 will be hosted by the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and will feature heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos versus Cain Velasquez in the main event.