The Brazilian star will defend his ONE Flyweight World Title against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in the main event of “ONE on TNT I” on Wednesday, 7 April, and victory over the man many consider to be the greatest of all time would take “Mikinho” to new heights.
“For me, this is the best fight in the flyweight division in the world today,” Moraes says.
“If you could have one flyweight in the world to fight against the legend — who can beat DJ in a good way — it’s me. I believe that.”
Johnson was the most dominant flyweight to ever fight in North America, earning 12 World Title bout victories during his time at the top. And he’s gone 3-0 since his switch to ONE, claiming the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship in the process.
But Moraes has won six World Title fights in The Home Of Martial Arts, ranking second behind only Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in World Championship success on the global stage. Given all that experience, he’s unfazed by his upcoming challenger’s reputation.
“DJ is famous, but I don’t care about that. I just try to focus on me, focus on my path, and do what I need to do to go there and have my hand raised,” the 32-year-old Brazilian says.
“I was cheering for him to win the World Grand Prix [so I could] fight against him. You know his story — he was one of the best champions in one of the most famous organizations in the world.
“Of course, people are going to put me as the underdog, but I don’t care. Everyone has their own story, and I just keep creating mine.”
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Moraes has followed “Mighty Mouse” for years and watched closely as he battled through the field to win the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix.
In doing so, he recognized the many incredible facets of the Washington native’s game. But “Mikinho” also believes he has the right people around him at American Top Team to get him ready for this matchup.
“His transitions are really good, his grappling is awesome, his strength is good, his conditioning is high level, and he’s smart — he does everything and it looks easy,” Moraes says of Johnson.
“Because DJ is so good at fighting, you need to have a really good strategy. So, Katel Kubis is doing a lot of good strategy with me. Conan Silveira gave his thoughts, of course, and Mike Brown is one of the best coaches in the world.
“Plus, I have a bunch of other guys like Kyoji Horiguchi and Jussier Formiga, a lot of [the best] flyweight fighters in the world today. So, I think this fight is going to be amazing.”
Along with good strategy and high-level training partners, Moraes also has his own attributes that he wants to display on TNT.
While Johnson suggested that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt could be hesitant to pull the trigger, “Mikinho” disagrees. The Brazilian has shown his ability to get things done quickly with six submission wins in ONE — including against their only shared opponent so far.
“I don’t think I’m the best in the world, but I think I’m different,” he offers.
“I do the transitions really [well], and I’m faster too. I always try to do everything correctly. I train hard every single day I go to the gym.
“DJ has beaten tough guys, but when I fought Danny Kingad, I submitted him in the first round. DJ almost submitted him, but he couldn’t.”
More than anything, “Mikinho” is hungry.
The Brasilia native has already overcome long odds in his life, he’s dedicated himself to success in martial arts, and he takes pride in representing ONE’s flyweight division as its most successful fighter to date.
All of those factors only add to Moraes’ motivation weeks ahead of the biggest flyweight match in mixed martial arts history.
“If I beat DJ, it is going to be really good for my career, for my team, and for my family. I think I’m ready for it,” he says.
“I’ve been in ONE Championship for eight years, and I am going to defend the ONE Championship flag. DJ has everything already, and he’s trying to cross my way. He’s gonna pay, that’s it.”