ABU DHABI – Marlon Moraes has quite the high opinion of UFC on ESPN+ 37 opponent Cory Sandhagen.
Moraes (23-6-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC) meets Sandhagen (12-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) in Saturday’s bantamweight headliner, which takes place at Flash Forum at Yas Island and streams on ESPN+. It’s a key fight for the weight class, and one that has real implications on the title picture.
Although Moraes is coming off a win over Jose Aldo, and Sandhagen is coming off a loss to Aljamain Sterling, the Brazilian said the matchup is logical. He was originally pushing for a showdown with Dominick Cruz, but he could track the former champion down. Moraes said he got the next best thing, though, and he actually views Sandhagen as the superior fighter.
“I think Cory is a better version of Dominick Cruz,” Moraes told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN+ 37 media day. “I want to get in there and show the caliber of fighter I am. Getting there against a highly skilled opponent like Cody. Cody’s not an easy fight for anybody. In my opinion he’s one of the best fighters in the division and he’s one of the hardest guys to fight.”
Moraes, a former WSOF champion, has picked up some spectacular wins in the UFC. His most recent bout saw him edge Aldo in a split decision, but he wasn’t rewarded with a title shot, and in fact, Aldo got one instead.
Many were up in arms about Aldo getting a championship opportunity off back-to-back defeats, but Moraes said he didn’t have a problem being passed over. He missed his chance to claim gold from then-champ Henry Cejudo just two bouts ago, and he always felt more work would be needed to get a second crack.
“Not (mad) at all with not getting the title shot,” Moraes said. “I knew I needed another fight after beating Aldo and it was a close fight and I just fought for the title. People want to see someone get in there with a statement, and that fight was a good fight with a legend, but it wasn’t a statement. Here I am now. I focus on the fight and the performance I’m going to put on.
The UFC’s 135-pound belt is currently in possession of the Petr Yan. He’s expected to be challenged by Sterling next, but the UFC has yet to pin down a date or location for that matchup.
Yan fueled the fire of the UFC potentially moving away from the fight in a recent social media post, telling Sterling he should be “worried” about losing his shot. The door is seemingly open for Moraes or Sterling to swoop in if they do something impressive, and Moraes said it’s certainly crossed his mind.
“With the UFC everything changes,” Moraes said. “It’s all about your last performance and Sterling fought – I don’t remember when he last fought, so it must’ve been two, three months ago. We’re fighting Saturday and a lot of people are going to remember what happens Saturday.”