Brandon Moreno was seeded 16th on “The Ultimate Fighter.” He was cut after back-to-back losses.
But he never gave up, never lost faith and never kept working. In the days before his rematch with flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo on Saturday at Gila Rivera Arena in the co-main event of UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona, he told anyone who would listen that he’d become the UFC’s first Mexican-born world champion.
He did just that with a dominant performance, submitting Figueiredo with a rear-naked choke at 2:20 of the third round.
“This is so amazing,” Moreno exclaimed as the crowd roared. “This [expletive] life, it’s amazing, bud. I feel so amazing.”
He fought amazingly well. After getting a split draw in December in a 2020 Fight of the Year candidate with Figueiredo, Moreno went back to the drawing board. He came out a quicker, stronger, better version of himself.
His speed was a difference in the striking, the grappling and in the thought processing. He did everything at uber speed and Figueiredo couldn’t keep up.
“You know the man I am and the better man tonight was Brandon Moreno,” Figueiredo said.
Moreno dropped Figueiredo with a jab in the first round. After fending off a choke attempt in the second, Moreno got Figueiredo’s back and threatened with a rear naked choke.
And in the third round, Moreno took him down and got his back again. Figueiredo squirmed out of the first choke attempt, but Moreno threw strikes. As Figueiredo tried to avoid those, Moreno was able to slip the choke back in.
This time, Figueiredo couldn’t get it off and was forced to tap.
It made him one of the unlikeliest champions in UFC history.
He did it all with style and grace and a smile that was on his face throughout.
“I worked so hard for this,” he said, fighting back tears. “This is just unbelievable.”