To the Hall of Fame, Érik “Terrible” Morales, It is clear to him that Mixed Martial Arts are strong to see, but the admiration and respect for his compatriot and Tijuana neighbor Brandon Moreno is present. ESPN Sports Digital brought the two champions together for a talk in Mexico City.
“It’s hard for me [ver MMA] because of the injuries, when they break their legs and so on, “says Morales talking about some of the most recent fights, specifically Chris Weidman’s at UFC 261.” I know it’s going to be difficult to change your perspective on the sport. I want to invite you to see. I had to analyze that event and it looked very ugly, I even got sad ”, the martial artist replied.
Despite the attempts of the 27-year-old fighter, it seems difficult for him to turn Morales into a full-time fan: “It gives me anguish, I’m kind of claustrophobic, just like you had this rival and you squeezed his neck,” he said. Érik recalling the image of submission to Figueiredo, provoking an immediate reaction between laughter: “In the fights against Barrera I did not see any claustrophobia.”
The two Tijuana idols agreed on the violent part of the combat sport, but also on the aspect of respect for the opponent and the desire for both to come out in the best conditions.
“Since I was a child I dedicated myself to this sport and it is still shocking when you hit someone and they fall. You are all happy, but you turn to see if it has already stopped or when it is you who is down. You always ask God that both of you can go down with health, because at the end of the day your intention is not to hurt the other, it is to beat him or even knock him out, but not to hurt him, ”explained the now deputy Morales Elvira.
Tijuana is the land of world champions. A border town where both local warriors and foreigners found a home to train or participate in local functions.
Names like Juan José ‘Dinamita’ Estrada, Raúl ‘Jíbaro’ Pérez, Manuel ‘Mantecas’ Medina, Antonio Margarito or Jackie Nava have written Tijuana’s history in the ring.
Of all, Érik ‘Terrible’ Morales was perhaps the one who achieved the highest recognition worldwide, with his titles in four different categories (the first Mexican to achieve such a task), his inclusion in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and the trilogies against his compatriot Marco Antonio Barrera and the Filipino Manny Pacquiao that are treasured by boxing fans as some of the most intense of the last decades.
Now, in addition to a political career as a deputy, Morales trains one of the young stars with the greatest projection in Mexico, his countryman Jaime Munguía, who was closing his camp on the night of June 12, when they met in front of the television to see another Tijuana warrior, but inside the octagon: Brandon Moreno.
“We were at Jaime Munguía’s house, I train him and fight the following week. For my taste, I do not know anything about jiu-jitsu and other things, I feel that in the first part you did very well and in the second they beat you because you got in, although I also understand that if you didn’t do that you would not have given it up “Morales told the new UFC flyweight champion in a match captured by ESPN cameras.
“I really wanted to meet you little guy,” said the “Baby Killer” to the “Terrible” with a smile. Surprised that he had been watching their fight, he offered an explanation.
“I felt very good and sometimes it is difficult, you have to adapt in boxing for mixed martial arts, because there is jiujitsu and other factors. The truth is that I felt very comfortable, in the first fight there if we hit it off, I think you could see more successes and mistakes there, the fight was practically standing up ”.
After two bouts with the Brazilian Deiveson Figueiredo (the first was a draw), the tricolor managed to make history as the first Mexican monarch of the largest MMA organization in the world. Moreno was always a good floor fighter, but in 2018 he made the decision that underpinned his career: training like a true Mexican boxer was part of strengthening that part of his game.
“In 2018 I started boxing in the North Zone (the ‘Terrible’ gym), I had already been in the sport for several years, I practiced jiu-jitsu, muay thai wrestling, but there I came to your gym,” he said.
It was a key decision for Moreno. He was coming off two tough losses and arrived with Javier ‘Drift’ Cortés, his current boxing coach, who got him back to basics, and in a matter of minutes, he realized he had a lot to learn.
“How did they treat you?” Morales asked Brandon, who answered honestly.
“They beat me up… I’m not going to lie to you, I came from losing a fight. We began to review the fight and we saw that technique was needed with the hands, the jiu-jitsu was very good, the fight was very good, but there were technical things in the standing, the legs, the head movement ”, he added.
His defeat against the Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja further evidenced those gaps and also cost him the termination of his contract with the company; Technically I would have to start from scratch: “The first day I went sparring with my MMA mask, because with the closed boxing mask it doesn’t let you see the takedowns. I don’t remember if it was an uppercut, but my nose bleed. ‘Drift’ liked that, I didn’t give up because I wanted to continue boxing ”.
Cortés decided to take it as a project, considering that he already worked with other MMA fighters, but in Brandon he found the dedication that led him to get more and more involved in that sport and he noticed the difference in his subsequent fights, since his victory over Maikel Pérez for the LFA title, and on his return to the UFC, especially in the fight against New Zealander Kai Kara-France, an elite puncher, whom he beat in three rounds on his feet.
“Now, I can keep the fight on the ground that I want. As the technique of the hands has improved, because I have been taking flight “, Moreno acknowledges with a huge smile.
It was necessary for the most recent champion of the promotion to move to Las Vegas, as he also has a commentator role. However, his team is still in Tijuana, at Raúl Arvizu’s Entram Gym, where he will continue to do his camps and work on elements such as his boxing, increasingly attached to the style of the great Mexican idols such as Morales, whom he tries to do. involve it.
Tijuana is already a land of boxing legends and Moreno wants to extend his into mixed martial arts.