Photo by Anton Tabuena
Interview: Zorobabel Moreira, who is one of the best fighters in the region, talks about the opportunity of fighting for the inaugural ONE FC lightweight title against Kotetsu Boku
For quite some time now, Zorobabel Moreira has been considered as one of the best and brightest prospects in the Asian MMA region. The massive 6-foot-3 lightweight is a BJJ world champion who has impressed early in his career and has been ranked as the #7 lightweight in the World MMA Scouting Report.
He has always been highly regarded in the Asian MMA circuit but after huge wins over Felipe Enomoto and Roger Huerta which saw him brutally knock out the UFC vet, this Evolve MMA product has suddenly broke out as a massive star and is becoming more widely known through out the MMA community and especially in his adopted home of Singapore.
"ONE FC is the biggest in Asia so for me it is the best show to fight for, because I live here now. Everyone in Singapore can see ONE FC on the TV and many people go to watch the shows in the stadium and MMA has become very famous," Moreira said as he talked to BloodyElbow.com, "Before no-one knew about MMA and no-one knew about me, but now everywhere I go in Singapore they say 'you are Zoro, the fighter' and people ask for some photos."
His next fight happens in a few hours, and as he faces former Shooto champion Kotetsu Boku, Zoro will have an opportunity to become the very first ONE FC lightweight champion.
"I am very happy," he said as he talked about being granted a title shot, "it is very good for me and good for my career. To be champion would be a dream. I have worked very hard and everyone at Evolve MMA has worked very hard and helped me a lot."
"When I came to Singapore I was like a beginner. I did not know boxing, Muay Thai or wrestling, only BJJ," he continued, "but the trainers at Evolve MMA have helped me so much and I am like a new fighter now because of them. Chatri (Sityodtong) has also helped me a lot because he made me go from middleweight to lightweight and I feel very good at this weight. I want to win this belt for everyone at Evolve MMA, because they have worked so hard to help me to have this chance. If I am champion it will be because of them."
Moreira credits his improvements from the world champion coaches and staff at the famed Evolve MMA gym. He used to be a very awkward striker who used to fight two divisions higher. This was very evident a few years ago, and back in 2010, Zoro suffered his first and only loss in a middleweight bout against Strikeforce veteran, Joe Ray.
"That was a long time ago and I am like a new fighter now," Moreira says, as he talked about being a completely different fighter from just a few short years, "I had not been at Evolve MMA for a long time and I was only a BJJ fighter then. Now I have been working on my Muay Thai with Lamanamoon Sor Sumalee and on my wrestling with Heath Sims, working hard all the time even if I do not have a fight."
The progress and improvements to his overall MMA game has been very interesting to watch. Just looking at him destroy three of his most recent opponents in Andy Wang, Felipe Enomoto and Roger Huerta, most people would think Zorobabel was a seasoned Muay Thai fighter rather than a BJJ-based fighter. In a few short years, the changes has been so drastic that Zoro has noticeably been more crisp and technical with his shots, and he now fully utilizes the massive reach advantage he has over lightweights with his 6'3 frame.
He has looked like a dominant force in the Asian region since then, but this Singapore-based Brazilian isn't taking his Japanese foe lightly.
"I am a much better fighter now, but for sure Boku is dangerous because he is a very hard puncher, and if you make one small mistake against a fighter like this then the fight can be over," he said, "The Muay Thai trainers at Evolve MMA are very clever, they all have more than 300 fights and have won many titles and some of them have been (emulating the) same style like Boku in sparring to help me."
"For sure his punching (is his main strength) but his experience will be as well. He has much more experience than me, I think he three times more fights than me. He has spent a lot of time fighting and has a lot of experience, so he will be very tough, and I am expecting a hard fight, a war."
Another top lightweight will be fighting on the ONE FC 6 card in Shinya Aoki, and while the DREAM champion has already fought a close friend and former training partner in Satoru Kitaoka, Zoro just doesn't share the same views.
"We train every day together at Evolve MMA, and we are teammates" Zoro said as he reiterated his stance about not wanting to face Aoki, "I do not want to fight my teammate."
Zorobabel Moreira training with Shinya Aoki at Evolve MMA -- Photo by Anton Tabuena
Even without a bout against Aoki, there are still a bunch of very interesting match ups than can be made on a very stacked lightweight roster in Asia. Before Boku was offered as an opponent, reports suggested that Zoro's first opponent was supposed to be ONE FC star and URCC Champion, Eduard Folayang. Plans kept changing and it was said to be against Muay Thai champ, Ole Laursen, before that fight got scrapped as well. Moreira says he wasn't fazed by the changes, but he did briefly talk about the potential match up.
"No (the changes didn't affect me as much). I always knew I would fight on this day so I have had a lot of time to get ready. It is not up to me who I fight, I let Chatri and Heath take care of that and I trust them."
"If I win (against Boku), I think I will fight Eduard, but I am not thinking about that yet. The only important thing is winning this fight." he said, as he talked about potential match ups against the popular Filipino, "I am not thinking about a fight against him yet, but I have seen (Folayang) fight many times, and he is always in very good fights, that is all I know."
Zoro is just focused Boku, and rightfully so. He has a chance to make history by being the first ONE FC lightweight champion, and this Evolve MMA standout isn't going to let this opportunity go to waste.
Can Moreira further live up to his potential, continue improving, and claim the inaugural title? We'll find out in a few short hours.
Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena