John Moraga Hoping to “Open a Lot of People’s Eyes” in Upcoming UFC Debut
Flyweight Fighting Ulysses Gomez at UFC on FOX 4
By Kelsey Mowatt
It’s been a dramatic month in the life of John Moraga, as not only did the 10-1 prospect find out he would make his UFC debut on less than the 30 days notice, he was informed soon after that his opponent had been changed. Originally, Moraga was tapped to fight flyweight contender Ian McCall at this Saturday’s UFC on FOX card. McCall was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury, however, and now Moraga will take on fellow newcomer Ulysses Gomez.
“A little bit,” said Moraga, when asked if he was disappointed to find out that he would no longer fight McCall. “But at the end of the day, it’s my UFC debut, so I’m just happy to begin my shot in the UFC.”
The 28 year-old Moraga has been working for a spot in the UFC since November, 2009, when he began competing for the long standing, Arizona based promotion Rage in the Cage.
“It was sitting at home, watching a movie with my girlfriend, and my phone rang late at night,” Moraga told Full Contact Fighter, while recalling the long awaited phone call. “I got up to answer it because I knew it had to be important. It was my coach, he never calls me that late at night, and the first thing he told me was that I was pulling out of my fight, I was supposed to fight that next Friday. I said tell me I’m in the UFC, and he said ‘you’re in the UFC’.”
“I was so excited,” Moraga added. “All my hard work, I’ve earned it you know? All that work has finally paid off.”
Although Moraga will no longer battle McCall, he will take on another accomplish competitor in Gomez. The Cobra Kai fighter arrives in the UFC carrying a 9-2 record, which includes winning the bantamweight and flyweight championships with Tachi Palace Fights.
“I don’t know much about him, but I’ve been keeping tabs on fighters that I thought possibly would be flyweights in the UFC,” Moraga noted. “I haven’t seen him fight too much, I just know that he’s really good at jiu-jitsu and that he’s got decent stand-up, so it’s going to be a really good fight.”
“I kind of like being unknown a little bit,” Moraga added, when asked while discussing whether some fans may be more familiar with Gomez, due to his TPF titles and previous appearance with Bellator. “If they don’t know as much about me they can’t scout me so much. I’ve got a couple of fights on Youtube, but no one really knows me. I kind of like that. I get to open a lot of people’s eyes and create my own buzz.”
Moraga’s success to date shouldn’t be surprising, considering that he is a former Division 1 wrestler at Arizona State University, and that he continues to train with the renowned MMA Lab and Arizona Combat Sports teams.
“Wherever it goes man I’ll be prepared,” said Moraga, whose only loss to date came via unanimous decision against TUF winner Jon Dodson in December, 2010. “So as far as what I like to do, I like to make it an exciting fight, whether it’s on the ground or standing up. I’m going to be pushing the pace and trying to push the action….That’s what I like to do; put on an exciting fight.”
While Moraga has been working for some time towards a UFC roster spot, the fighter is particularly excited about the fact that it will be in the recently created flyweight division.
“I’ve been fighting at 135 and walking in the cage at like 138,” the 5’6 tall fighter relayed. “It’s going to be nice…I always had this in the back of mind that maybe this could happen, because they had kind of been talking about it, but when they announced it was kind of out of nowhere. It was pretty cool.”
“Cain (Velasquez) and I would talk about this when he was in college, and he was talking about if he was going to fight,” Moraga furthered. “I was like, I can’t fight; 155 is too big, then I saw the WEC and I started thinking they’re putting on some really good fights with the smaller guys, maybe the UFC will one day too.”