UFC flyweight contender John Moraga (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) respects current champion Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC). Really, he does. He just happens to think “Mighty Mouse” is a boring fighter.
“He just bounces around,” Moraga told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He runs around too much. He doesn’t fight. He doesn’t put on exciting fights. He’s got a lot of technique and a lot of skill, but he doesn’t finish people, I don’t feel.
“I think he’s boring.”
The once-beaten Moraga challenges Johnson for the flyweight belt at this summer’s UFC on FOX 8 event, which takes place July 27 at Seattle’s KeyArena and airs on FOX.
The pair was originally expected to meet in April, but Johnson required shoulder surgery, which delayed the contest.
Moraga, who was a bit of a surprise booking, admitted the opportunity came a little sooner than he expected, but that he felt confident the UFC wouldn’t take it away when Johnson was forced to the sidelines.
“I was a bit surprised that it came so quick, but I was the only one that had two finishes in the division,” Moraga said. “I felt like I beat two decently ranked opponents, so I felt like it was possible. But I was a little bit surprised it came so quick.
“Still, I was confident I was going to be able to keep it. I just didn’t really worry about it. I figured that would be the best way to go about it. I just trained hard, and I figured things would play out however they do.”
Fortunately for Moraga, the UFC saw fit to keep the contest together. Now he’ll try to earn the UFC crown by becoming the first man to hand Johnson a loss at 125 pounds.
While “Mighty Mouse” is often praised for his speed and wrestling ability, Moraga – a two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State University – doesn’t see anything special in Johnson’s game other than an impressive sense of timing.
“I don’t think he’s that fast,” Moraga said. “I think he has good timing.
“He has very good timing with his takedowns. I don’t think he’s the greatest wrestler, but he just has good timing, and good timing is key in MMA wrestling.”
Moraga’s two UFC wins have come by stoppage, including a “Submission of the Night” win over Chris Cariaso and a knockout victory over Ulysses Gomez. Meanwhile, Johnson’s three flyweight wins have all come by decision, and he has just one stoppage victory in seven total wins under the Zuffa banner.
It’s that fact that colors Moraga’s opinion of the champ. Sure, he’s effective, but is he bringing much-needed attention to the 125-pound division.
“He’s great,” Moraga said of Johnson. “To the educated MMA fan, he’s probably not boring. I probably didn’t word that right. But to the people when you’re trying to gain fans, especially for the flyweight division, I think it’s boring to them because it’s always the same thing with him.
“My main thing is I don’t like going out there an putting on boring fights. For this fight, who knows how it’s going to play out? Once we get in there, we’ll adapt to whatever we need to. I know I’m going to have to be a little bit patient because he moves around so much and he doesn’t really get the fight going right away, as far as big, heavy exchanges or anything like that.”
It’s big talk from the 29-year-old Arizona native, who trains alongside UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at The MMA Lab in suburban Phoenix. But Moraga plans on making good on his end of the bargain.
After all, it was just 12 months ago that Moraga was competing on Arizona’s regional circuit. Now he’s hoping to become a UFC champion and change his fortunes.
“This is the biggest opportunity of my life,” Moraga said. “I started fighting for my kids. I’ve gotten this far all for them, and it’s the most important thing. It’s the biggest opportunity, and I can’t let it slip by. It means everything to me.”
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