From Tijuana to the top: The rise of Brandon Moreno
UFC fans were first introduced to Brandon ‘The Baby Assassin’ Moreno when he appeared on the 25th season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. The theme of the show was to collect flyweight champions from promotions all over the world with the winner of the tournament being given a title shot against Demetrious Johnson. Moreno entered the series as the lowest ranked seed and his time on the show was cut short as he lost the opening bout to the number one seed Alexandre Pantoja; but his personality certainly made an impact.
Before the series had even finished airing, Moreno debuted in the UFC and proved his worth despite being unsuccessful on TUF. Winning three in a row, Moreno surprised fans who had watched him lose to Pantoja and emerged as an exciting contender in the flyweight division. Moreno would go on to lose back-to-back fights in the UFC, a 5-round decision to Sergio Pettis and a 3-round decision rematch with Pantoja. Though losing wasn’t an unfamiliar taste to Moreno who started his pro career with a record of three wins and three losses, this was a massive moment for his career.
With the UFC flyweight division’s future uncertain, ‘The Baby Assassin’ was cut from the UFC after building a cult fanbase. After just one rebound win, becoming the LFA flyweight champion, Moreno found himself back in the UFC, fighting in front of his home crowd in Mexico to a split decision draw with Askar Askarov. With Askarov being highly thought of at 125 pounds, Moreno was put straight back in there with the top contenders and followed up with the best streak of his career. With consecutive wins over Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga and Brandon Royval, he put himself in pole position for a title shot which came around a lot faster than many expected.
After a first round win in his first title defense, flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo looked to make history by becoming the first fighter to headline back-to-back PPVs. With Moreno beating Brandon Royval in the opening round on the same card, he was granted a title fight with less than a month to prepare for it. Going into UFC 256, the champion came in as a massive favourite, leading Moreno to shock the world by going toe-to-toe with him. Producing a fight of the year contender, the fight ended in a draw due to a point deduction for Figueiredo following a groin kick. An immediate rematch had to take place and was scheduled for UFC 263 where Moreno would make the right adjustments.
In a far more one-sided fight, Moreno avoided taking huge damage and used his speed to outwork the defending champion. Landing several big takedowns, his pace paid off in the third round when he took Figueiredo’s back and submitted him to become the new flyweight champion. From being the last pick on The Ultimate FIghter to being cut from the UFC, this moment came from Moreno’s perseverance. Crowned Mexico’s first ever UFC champion, murals on the streets of Tijuana in tribute to him began to pop up instantly.
Greeted with a hero’s welcome on his return to Mexico, Brandon Moreno symbolises the warrior heart that Mexican fighters have become known for in combat sports. With his stock guaranteed to rise massively in the coming months, ‘The Baby Assassin’ will make his first title defense with an army behind him