John Moraga's Pain Game: 'Every Moment of the Fight, I'm Trying to Hurt You'
If you didn't know the name John Moraga when the main event for UFC on Fox 8 was announced, don't feel too bad.
Two fights into his UFC career and Moraga has pulled the curtain back to open the show on both occasions, while competing on the Facebook prelims. In those fights, however, Moraga has looked impressive enough to grab the attention of the matchmakers at the UFC.
So despite never having fought on a main card of any UFC show, Moraga was given the chance to compete for the UFC flyweight title on national TV as part of the UFC on Fox 8 main event. These are the chances that can make a career, and Moraga is well aware of just how important this moment is to him.
"I'm excited for it, the opportunity that I have," Moraga told Bleacher Report. "I think I'm going to open a lot of people's eyes."
To hear Moraga speak, he's a cool customer who doesn't seem even the least bit rattled to be fighting for a UFC title in only his third bout with the promotion. He talks like a contender who has earned this shot, and he's not going to let the moment overtake him.
A great number of fighters have boasted the same kind of confidence in the past only to watch it fade away as the nerves wash over them like a tidal wave. Moraga won't ignore the obvious facts about the magnitude of this title fight, but to prepare he's also called on some close friends and training partners to get the best possible advice to get ready for Saturday night.
In college, Moraga attended Arizona State University, which has produced a number of UFC stars over the years including current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Moraga says he can always call on his old wrestling teammates to help him at any moment, but he's also got some great influences in his home gym.
Moraga trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona—the same gym responsible for producing UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.
"I think it's been a real big help to have them there to ask them anything," Moraga said about Henderson and MMA Lab head coach John Crouch. "Also, to get inside information as far as from their experiences of what they've done wrong in the past, or what they would have done better or just their advice on certain stuff. It's definitely been helpful."
Moraga is no stranger to hard work in the gym, but with a title fight comes a whole new slate of obligations, including a mass of interviews to promote the card with the media.
Early on, Moraga set the tone for how he would approach this fight by being as blunt and honest about his opponent as possible. He used words like 'boring' to describe champion Demetrious Johnson's style, and didn't seem the least bit nervous speaking his mind.
It's that kind of brutal honesty that might just help Moraga stake his claim to becoming the best flyweight fighter in the UFC. As he retells the story now, Moraga stands by his original statement about Johnson, but clarifies it wasn't about trash talk or hyping his fight at UFC on Fox 8. It was just an honest answer to a question, and Moraga looks at it as an assessment on his opponent and not some kind of inflammatory statement meant to stir up attention.
"They asked me a question, I answered it honestly. I do feel that, maybe the way I said it real blunt that he was boring, that didn't really tell the full tale. Basically, I feel he goes out there and tries to outpoint people and survive rather than go in there for the kill," Moraga stated. "He's going in there to win on the judges' scorecards after five rounds. The difference between me and him and the other fighters I like to watch fight, because I'm a fight fan myself, and I feel his style he's boring because that's what he does. He doesn't go in there and try to finish. He doesn't try to hurt the other guy."
Finishing fights or showing the killer instinct to try and put away an opponent is where Moraga believes he has a huge advantage over the champion. If there's just a few seconds left in a round, Moraga has no plans of sitting and waiting for the time to expire.
He's going to look to take Johnson's head off until the final horn sounds and the fight is over.
"I'm in there every moment of the fight, I'm trying to hurt you," Moraga said. "I'm trying to finish the fight with some damage. That's what the fans want to see. They want to see somebody going after it. I don't feel like he does that. I feel like he goes in there to try to be there five rounds later, and he tries to just be better on the scorecards, that's how I feel he fights."
"I'm a different fighter. I'm going to go in there, I'm going to try to hurt you, I'm going to try to finish the fight. That's all I really have to say about that."
Moraga will get a chance to back up his words on Saturday night when he battles Johnson in the main event of UFC on Fox 8 with the flyweight title up for grabs.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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