An MMA fighter who stepped into the octagon on Saturday and is already loading up his backpack for Tuesday training can be considered a success when it comes to commitment. That’s the case with the TUF Brazil runner-up Sérgio Moraes after dropping a unanimous decision to also-black belt Cezar Mutante, a middleweight under Vitor Belfort’s tutelage, at UFC 147.
Even in defeat, Sérgio received a continuous flow of phone calls from family members and teammates at Alliance, like Professor Fabio Gurgel, pleased with his sure-fisted display standing after just a month and ten days of intensive Thai boxing training coached by André Dida in Curitiba. That was where, after spending two weeks evaluating offers and discussing considerations with the Alliance top brass, the Jiu-Jitsu world champion went after leaving the TUF house. And there he readied himself by trading leather with Mauricio Shogun, Wanderlei Silva and Fabricio Werdum, among other thick-skinned fighters. He couldn’t put his evolution on hold now, could he?
Before the prideful eyes of his kids, Bia and Riki, and his brown belt wife, Jaqueline (current Jiu-Jitsu champion of Brazil), late Saturday night Sérgio became the pride of Jiu-Jitsu fans. This time, though, it wasn’t because of his guard, but for the durability of his chin. He then spoke with GRACIEMAG.com about the defeat that tasted of victory.
Even the way you defended strikes, opening out your arms, is quite similar to Shogun’s way of fighting. Did training in Curitiba change you for UFC 147?
Can you believe that they didn’t even teach me that? I never spoke with Shogun about it, but I picked it up. It’s a way of repositioning your fists, making the opponent understand, “Look, the hand is here, the shield is in place again!” My training was overseen by [André] Dida, who knows plenty about Thai boxing. He’s the one most responsible for my technical evolution. He demanded a lot of me, made me do lots of repetitions, and on top of that there were hours and hours of sparring. I knew how hard Mutante hits. But being able to train with guys of the caliber of Shogun and Wand, who are also heavier than me, I can’t say enough about. And then there were the heavy hands of Werdum, another world champion, who I trained with on the ground. So we were all prepared for any situation that could arise.
Did any of the strikes you took actually daze you? Do you remember everything that went on in there?
The hardest hit I took was the first straight punch that opened a cut under my eye, good Lord. I just said to myself, “Don’t stop Sérgio, hustle! Get going, kid. The guy wants to kill you!” That’s MMA. I really took a lot of bombs, so many haymakers that hurt. And he was heavy. He’s a lot heavier than I am. He borders on 100 kg [220 lbs], and I compete in the gi at 78 kg. I really want to move divisions; I was only in this one to make it into TUF Brazil.
Have you heard official word from the UFC?
No, we TUF cast members have a contract until the end of 2012, but nothing official was said to me after the fight. Now I’ll just wait, but I’m not concerned. I really want to stay. But if this time it doesn’t happen, it won’t get in the way of my dream. I still harbor hopes of one day fighting for the UFC belt in my division [77 kg]. If it doesn’t happen now, then soon. I’ll wake up early, train and battle for it every day. Some day they’ll call on me. I’m sure of it.
You’ve said that you wanted to recover your confidence on your feet, especially after that knockout you took from Daniel Sarafian, that flying knee that was broadcast on Globo channel. But was there really no way to take the fight to the ground at any point?
That was the strategy. My objective was to win, and the game plan put together by Dida and Shogun was to try and take him down and land on top. I’ll take this opportunity to ask forgiveness of Fabio [Gurgel] for not having taken it to the ground. Sorry, guys! But the first time I tried, in the first round, I realized it was going to be really hard to do. He was really well prepared to defend and withdraw if I’d kept trying. So Dida and Shogun calmed me down during the first-round break, saying I was in good shape and safe on my feet, if I wasn’t able to get the takedown. So I fought on calmly. I really wanted to rain on Vitor Belfort’s parade, but victory escaped me (laughs).
What will your first training session after the UFC be like? In the gi perhaps?
It’ll be what we call “recovery” training. To check the pains and injuries, and work on movement, walking on the treadmill, doing some light standup work. I put the gi aside some last month. But now I’m going to inaugurate the Alliance Curitiba academy here and start teaching gi classes next week, the week after at the latest. Class will be awesome; I’ll be teaching Jiu-Jitsu at the academy of the swimmer Gustavo Borges, in the Barigui neighborhood, I think—I’m still new here, from the Cohab low-income housing tract to Curitiba (laughs). I’d like to take the chance to send my best to the guys over in São Paulo—and the family of the S: my parents, Sidney and Sônio, and my siblings, Simone and Sandro.
* What do you say, gentle reader, does Sérgio have a future in the under-77 kg division?