MADRID — Brandon Moreno attended a VIP occasion on Friday, Sept. 2, on the Eiffel Tower. The invitation was made by Ari Emanuel, the CEO of UFC father or mother firm Endeavor.
Overlooking the City of Light, the UFC’s interim flyweight champion and his supervisor, Jason House, chatted with Emanuel hours earlier than UFC Paris. The dialog revolved across the UFC’s enlargement plans in Latin America — together with the upcoming UFC Performance Institute in Mexico City — and the way Moreno, the promotion’s first Mexican-born champion, components into them.
“[Emanuel] was simply very complimentary,” House advised ESPN. “He’s very excited for the longer term, and we advised him the identical. We’re very excited to be part of his course of and to be a brick within the basis.”
Moreno, born in Tijuana, is already the face of the UFC in Mexico and a cog within the firm’s future in Latin America. UFC president Dana White referred to him final month as “one of many greatest stars on the roster.”
But Moreno made the journey to Europe this summer time to increase his profile much more internationally. He visited Italy, Paris and Spain, the place he was escorted round Valencia and Madrid by executives from LaLiga, the nation’s legendary soccer league as a part of a collaboration with the UFC.
“I perceive my market is in Mexico and the United States, proper?” Moreno stated. “But to me, it’s extremely particular to go to a complete completely different nation, to a spot the place I’m not anticipating nothing. I do not anticipate the man to know my identify or no matter. But folks know my identify and are asking for an autograph or no matter. It’s particular, too. The purpose proper now’s to be extra acknowledged around the globe. I’m placing within the work proper now.”
That’s all a part of the plan, House stated. It began again in March when Moreno went to UFC London to do some media appearances.
“I believe actually our purpose is to make Brandon a worldwide star,” House stated. “Not only a star in North America. But to extend our presence in these markets. These are massive markets the UFC is increasing into and we type to wish to be part of that progress. Make certain Brandon is capitalizing on the alternatives that his success has introduced.”
MORENO COVERED HIS mouth along with his palms, nearly in awe. Enrique, the chef of the well-known Casa Navarro restaurant in Valencia, displayed his famous paella to the table, which ignored the seaside.
Across the desk from Moreno for the Sunday afternoon meal was UFC featherweight prospect Ilia Topuria, who lives in Alicante, about two hours south of Valencia. After lunch, LaLiga officers whisked the 2 fighters over to Mestalla, the 99-year-old stadium of soccer crew Valencia CF. Moreno and Topuria spoke with teenagers from Valencia’s academy groups after which got a tour of the classic stadium by information Melanie Gasulla.
Outside the house locker room, Moreno and Topuria met gamers earlier than the sport and acquired to see the pitch, the place each joked round with Valencia mascot Super Bat. Topuria even grounded the character down with a single-leg takedown for laughs. Afterward, they stayed for the sport, a 5-1 win for Valencia over Getafe.
Moreno and Topuria have been each inundated with requests for pictures from followers throughout their keep at Mestalla. After the sport, there have been followers ready outdoors the stadium who have been advised that the gamers had already left. The followers stated they have been truly there to see Moreno and Topuria.
“They have been asking for them,” LaLiga North American vice chairman Nicolas Garcia Hemme stated. “They knew them. They noticed them.”
When LaLiga and the UFC cooked up the concept to collaborate — the idea is there’s a enormous crossover viewers amongst Hispanic Americans — Spanish league execs requested for Moreno to return over particularly.
“Brandon is unbelievable,” stated Adrian Segovia, the LaLiga North America head of content material and distribution. “He’s an instance of a household man. He’s changing into a legend for [the UFC]. He’s a winner. But additionally he is additionally a household man with all of the ideas that individuals are shifting towards. We assume that is actually one thing that connects with the values of LaLiga.”
The expertise was an impactful one for Moreno, who grew up humbly in Tijuana enjoying FIFA video video games and dealing for his parents’ piñata business. A day later, Moreno was taken by practice to Madrid to go to Cívitas Metropolitano, the house of LaLiga’s Atlético de Madrid. And Wednesday, Moreno would go to with the long-lasting Real Madrid membership throughout city.
“LaLiga from Spain is loopy, man,” the 28-year-old Moreno stated. “It has loads of historical past and loads of soccer tradition. It was superior.”
This is the type of alternative that Moreno is making an attempt to capitalize on, although, in an effort to construct his identify.
“Sitting on my sofa just isn’t the way in which to get extra consideration and extra eyes on my private model,” Moreno stated. “I must exit and meet extra folks and extra crowd. That’s why we’re right here.”
THE CURRENT PLAN, House stated, is for Moreno to combat champion Deiveson Figueiredo to unify the UFC flyweight title subsequent. The bout is prone to happen at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Figueiredo’s residence nation.
Moreno and Figueiredo have met thrice earlier than. The first bout, in December 2020, was a majority draw and the most effective fights of that yr. Moreno gained the rematch through submission in June 2021 to change into the primary Mexican-born champion in UFC historical past. Figueiredo then acquired the higher of Moreno at UFC 270 again in January through tight unanimous resolution to win the belt again.
At UFC 277 on July 30, Moreno beat Kai Kara-France through third-round TKO to win the interim title, which was placed on the road as a result of Figueiredo had accidents to each palms. If and when Figueiredo and Moreno meet once more, it is going to be the primary time in UFC historical past that two fighters compete in opposition to one another 4 instances.
“For Brandon and I, the phrase we at all times use is legacy,” House stated. “I believe proper now we’re writing chapters of his legacy. And the fourth combat with Figueiredo, doing that quadrilogy is an important a part of that legacy. We’re actually excited to win this one and cement Brandon’s place as one of many high champions ever within the flyweight division after which tackle the up and coming challengers which are gonna current themselves.”
After he gained the title in 2021, Moreno went on a prolonged media tour in Mexico, together with a visit to satisfy Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Moreno is beloved in his residence nation, and House feels assured his consumer might promote out Caliente Stadium in Tijuana — upward of 25,000 folks — proper now. It’s an MMA path that was paved first by Cain Velasquez, the primary Mexican American fighter to win the UFC heavyweight title and the most effective fighters ever to compete in that division.
Velasquez parted with the UFC in 2019 and was recently charged with tried premeditated homicide and a number of gun assault prices in March 2022.
“I believe Cain opened loads of doorways for us,” House stated. “I believe we have continued what Cain began. Cain clearly was an enormous affect in Latin America, in Mexico. I positively assume he created alternatives for us that we have in a position to take to the subsequent degree. And somebody hopefully will come behind our footsteps and go away it higher.”
That’s one among Moreno’s targets, too. He desires to take Mexican and Latin American MMA to larger heights, however not only for him, for the subsequent era of fighters, too. Moreno stated he spoke about that with Emanuel, as properly.
“Obviously, I do that for myself, to be the very best and do one thing for my household,” Moreno stated. “But on the identical time, if I can do one thing for different folks, I’ll. I promise. Ari seems to be very pleased, very motivated in regards to the concepts sooner or later for Mexico and Latin America, normally.”
White has lengthy stated he wished a homegrown UFC star from Mexico. “He has one now,” House stated. And Moreno and his crew do not plan on stopping there. On Sept. 5, Moreno spoke about his need to combat in entrance of a packed soccer stadium in Spain, like Cívitas Metropolitano, a stunning, high-tech facility that seats greater than 68,000.
Not dangerous for a child who had a modest upbringing in Tijuana.
“Sometimes, I attempt to not assume an excessive amount of about it,” Moreno stated. “I’m feeling strain daily. Man, beginning with needing to combat in opposition to one other man, that is strain. Fighting in entrance of 1000’s of individuals, extra strain. And belts, extra strain. The media.
“But positively, it’s extremely good to assume how my work goes around the globe and being acknowledged by the folks, the UFC, the followers. It’s good.”