In the long history of combat sports, Mexico has been well represented over the decades, most especially in the leading MMA league, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, more popularly referred to as the UFC. Brandon Moreno, the first Mexican-born UFC champion, recently partnered with leading tequila brand Jose Cuervo, and we had the honor of chatting with him briefly ahead of the Noche UFC event happening this weekend.
The UFC recently hosted a group of media professionals and league fighters in Tequila, Mexico, and CASSIUSLIFE was privileged and honored to be among that prestigious group.
During our time there, we were fortunate to witness and step inside the famed Octagon, which Cuervo helped to bring to Tequila, to briefly witness the current women’s flyweight champion Alexa Grasso training with some of her fellow UFC peers.
Strawweight Loopy Godinez, featherweight Diego Lopes, and flyweight Alessandro Costa were inside the cage alongside Grasso in the beautiful agave fields in the hills of Mexico ahead of her title fight against Valentina Shevchenko, who aims to win back the title she lost to Grasso back in March.
Over the course of two days, CASSIUSLIFE toured Jose Cuervo’s La Rojeña distillery, which is the oldest in Latin America, alongside Moreno and a group of others before ending our media day with a meal at the famed Hacienda el Centenario of Mundo Cuervo. It was then we had the pleasure of speaking with Moreno, whose affable and charming personality that we’ve seen inside the Octagon was just as tangible in person.
We opened up the conversation by asking Moreno, now 29 and residing in Las Vegas, Nev., how he got his start in mixed martial arts and more details about his upbringing.
“Getting into mixed martial arts was something that just sort of happened right after elementary school,” Moreno began. “I was just a kid after school who did his homework and then played video games, lots of junk food, things like that. I still love junk food. But I went to my parents and I said I wanted to do something athletic and I wanted to take up capoeira because of the the game Tekken and the character Eddy.”
Moreno explained that his mother couldn’t locate a capoeira gym where they lived but it was a chance ride in 2006 with his parents that they discovered a “Vale Tudo” gym. Vale Tudo, which translates to “anything goes,” is the name of the Brazilian no-holds-barred (NHB) martial art that helped inspire some of the modern MMA fighting styles and leagues we see today.
As the first person in his family to undertake a martial art, we asked Moreno about his rise to becoming the UFC’s first Mexican-born champion. Of course, other fighters of Mexican heritage were champions before the “Assassin Baby” but the significance of being the first born in Mexico was not lost on him.
“It was a goal from the time I got into the UFC because while there are other leagues, everyone knows which belt is the good one,” Moreno said. “When I got into MMA, I realized that every fighter who gets in the ring wants to win the belt because it means you’re the best. It is what it is. But it’s still also a sport so that’s why I was able to keep myself humble and happy but still hungry to win, especially being from Mexico.”
Moreno lost his title this past July to Alexandre Pantoja in a five-found that went to the card with Pantoja winning by split decision. It was as close a fight as there could be in the UFC and Moreno accepted the loss although he did mention one notable point.
“A lot of experts saw the fight coming my way and looking back at the tape, I saw it that way but could also see why they gave it to [Pantoja],” Moreno explained. “But to win the belt, you have to dominate the champion and that didn’t happen.”
It was during this moment that the breezy charm and smile of Moreno went away for just a moment and he said that he was ready to come back and represent his country.
“I am proud to be from Tijuana and Mexico and I want to get the belt again,” Moreno said. “I’ll get back and I’m working out every day, even though I’m eating a little too much on this trip. But all respect to the champion.”
We couldn’t let the interview end without asking about Moreno’s partnership with Jose Cuervo, who is the spirits partner of the UFC. With an infectious laugh, Moreno gave us the inside scoop.
“Because of training, I don’t drink a lot but if I’m going to, I want a margarita made with Cuervo,” Moreno said with a smile. “On a hot day like today? It’s so good. Too good, because I want another one right now.”
To keep up with all things Brandon Moreno, click here.
To learn more about Noche UFC, which goes down this Saturday (September 16) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, click here.
For all things Jose Cuervo, click here.
Photo: UFC/Jose Cuervo
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