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Renato Moicano explains why he’s no longer fighting on Fight Island

Renato Moicano made short work of Damir Hadzovic in his lightweight debut in March. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Family is the reason why Renato Moicano decided to withdraw from a lightweight bout with Magomed Mustafaev at the Oct. 17 UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi.

Moicano, who debuted as a 155-pounder in March with a victory over Damir Hadzovic in his hometown Brasilia, Brazil, agreed to the match before the promotion officially defined that the event would take place in Abu Dhabi. The fighter began a green card process right after his most recent bout, and leaving the country could jeopardize his plans.

“I was looking for a fight since the Brasilia fight, it was such a quick fight and I was uninjured, but we understand that getting a fight isn’t easy with the coronavirus [pandemic],” Moicano said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I was telling the UFC I wanted a fight but it couldn’t be outside the United States because of the green card process. I told the UFC and they said ok, they sent me the contract with the opponent but the location was yet to be defined.”

Moicano says he told the UFC more than once, through his manager and lawyer, that he would not be able to leave the country for a fight. When news broke that his Fight Night would be part of the second Fight Island series in the United Arab Emirates and there was “no guarantee” that he would be able to return home in Florida, Moicano made the call.

“My lawyer said that if I left [the country] it could affect my green card process,” said Moicano, that says his American Top Team teammate Alexandre Pantoja was unable to immediately return to Florida after competing in Abu Dhabi in July. “Borders are still closed and there’s a risk of leaving for the flight and returning to Brazil and not being able to come back to the United States and leaving my wife and my 7-month-old son alone here until God knows when.

“I respect the UFC, it’s very important for me and that’s how my make a living, it’s my dream, but we have to always put family first. I wouldn’t drop everything for a fight and leave my son and wife by themselves here. That could even affect my performance, so I’ve decided to wait.”

Moicano is open to fighting in one of the four November shows in Las Vegas, and wants someone ranked in the top 15. According to the Brazilian, that was the original plan to begin with, but Anthony Pettis and two ranked lightweights turned down a date with him.

“I belong in the elite of the UFC and regardless of the bad results I had, those two losses were to really tough opponents,” Moicano said of his losses to Jose Aldo and “The Korean Zombie” in 2019. “I was in the top 5 [at featherweight] and would really like to fight someone better ranked, but I can’t choose. I can’t say who, but the UFC offered me two guys from the top-15 and I immediately said yes, but both declined. What can I do? I can’t do anything.

“The UFC also offered me a fight with Anthony Pettis, who’s also ranked [at welterweight], and Anthony Pettis didn’t want the fight. What I feel is that I’m a really tough opponent and they know it, but I’m not ranked anymore. I understand them not wanting to fight. When I was in the top-5 everybody wanted to fight me, and now that I’ve left the division they will avoid me, but there’s no other way.”

Pettis defeated Donald Cerrone via decision in his most recent UFC fight in May, bouncing back from losses to Diego Ferreira and Nate Diaz. “Showtime” hasn’t competed at lightweight since a stoppage loss to Tony Ferguson in 2018, going 2-2 as a welterweight.

“It’s obvious that I want a ranked opponent, but I understand that they will run,” Moicano said. “I’ll fight whoever comes and will earn my right to fight someone ranked. I want to fight someone ranked, of course, but if it happened now, they will do it again, they won’t want to fight me. It’s a step back for them. But I’m sure we’ll be among the top 15 and we’ll soon be chasing the belt.”

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