T.J. Dillashaw wants Henry Cejudo next. Cejudo is eyeing the same. And it seems that’s the direction the UFC is pointing as well.
That leaves Marlon Moraes — one of the next men up in the bantamweight division — with a bad taste in his mouth. Cejudo is the UFC flyweight champion, while Dillashaw holds the bantamweight gold. Moraes believes he should be next in line for a title shot.
In June, Moraes knocked out fellow contender Jimmie Rivera in 33 seconds. That’s the kind of performance that gets athletes bigger opportunities. But four months later, the former World Series of Fighting champ is still waiting for his next move.
In his estimation, if Dillashaw decides to welcome Cejudo up to 135 with a title shot, it’s because he’s not trying to fight the best competition.
“I feel like [Dillashaw] doesn’t want to test himself,” Moraes told MMA Fighting. “He wants to fight the fights that he can win. I think stylistically if he fights Cejudo, it’s an easier matchup for him. That’s a no-risk fight. What’s Cejudo gonna do to him? Cejudo is gonna take him down, but he’s gonna get up. He’s a way better striker than Cejudo. I see him with the edge. I don’t think it makes sense.”
Moraes (21-5-1) has won three in a row. His lone loss in the UFC came by split decision — a very close one — against another top bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao last year. Moraes, 30, has just that one defeat going back to 2011. Playing the waiting game has not been fun for him, he said.
“I picked this career, because it’s not a team sport,” Moraes said. “Sometimes team sports, you have to wait. Wait for what the guy is gonna do. I don’t like to wait. I like to do. I like to make things happen. If they want me to take another soul out, I’m just gonna go out there and finish somebody else. If it’s not my time, I’m gonna keep doing that. I know I can fight for the title, I know I can be a champion. This is what champions do. They go out there and they beat whoever they put in front of them. I’m ready. I want to get a call and I want to get a fight.”
If the UFC wants Dillashaw to fight Cejudo, Moraes said he’d be more than happy to fight former champion Dominick Cruz. In the UFC’s official contender rankings at 135, Moraes is No. 4, while Assuncao is No. 3 and Cruz No. 2. Cody Garbrandt, the former champ who Dillashaw has now defeated twice in a row, remains No. 1.
“I respect the superfights, but when the superfight makes sense,” Moraes said. “I don’t think that’s the case. We’ve got plenty of contenders in my division. I see a lot of guys fighting for the title and I don’t get guys picking opponents. I just felt the UFC was running everything. This way it feels like the fighters are calling the shots.”
For that matter, Moraes believe Demetrious Johnson should get an immediate rematch against Cejudo for the flyweight belt. Cejudo defeated Johnson by split decision at UFC 227 in August, snapping Johnson’s UFC record of 11 straight title defenses.
“I think automatically Demetrious should get it any time he wants,” Moraes said. “That was the GOAT of the division and the UFC. Give that guy some respect. He deserves that shot. That’s no way to talk about the GOAT of all the divisions when you still didn’t fight that guy again.”
In a Moraes’ ideal world, he’d get Dillashaw next and Johnson would challenge Cejudo. The champions of both divisions would remain separate for the time being. If Dillashaw is trying to be a double champ by going down and facing Cejudo, Moraes proposes fighting him instead. “Magic” said slyly that he’s still the WSOF champion, after all.
“If Dillashaw wants to have two belts, fight me,” Moraes said. “I’m still champion. I still carry the championship belt. I’m still the World Series of Fighting champion. He wants big fights, he wants to fight champions? I’m a big fight, too.
“I’m a risky fight. He knows. If I don’t take this now, I’m gonna keep coming and one day I’m gonna get this.”