Phil Baroni was supposed to take on Roger Huerta (21-6-1) at ONE FC 4, but following a loss this past week at ROF the NYBA has been pulled from the event. The promotion has found a suitable replacement, and stepping in to face the UFC veteran on less than three weeks notice is BJJ World Champion, Zorobabel Moreira (6-1).
Zoro, a 6-foot-3 lightweight from the famed Evolve MMA gym, has been tearing up the competition in the Asian scene, and holds big wins against Felipe Enomoto, Ferrid Kheder, and Andy Wang. With his world class BJJ coupled with an ever improving stand up game, Zoro has been ranked as the #7 ranked lightweight at the World MMA Scouting Report.
He's one of the most respected and feared fighters in the region, but as he steps in on short notice, he will also be moving up in weight to face the biggest test of his career. The massive lightweight spoke to BloodyElbow.com, saying that he doesn't have any problems fighting higher weight class, and downplays the challenges of coming in at short notice.
"I don't know who he is," Moreira said candidly when asked what he thinks about his famous opponent, "I only focus on my training, but my coaches tell me that he is a tough fighter."
"I am most comfortable to fight as a lightweight fighter, but Roger and ONE FC ask me to fight at welterweight for this fight," he said, "I have less than three weeks to prepare but I have already been training with Brian (Choi), Brodinho (Leandro Issa), Mitch (Chilson), and Eddie (Ng) before he was injured. Rich Franklin helps me a lot too, and Ben Askren when he was here. Fight or no fight, we train every day. I will be ready."
Huerta is a gritty veteran who has been tried and tested against some of the world's best fighters. He's been going through a rough patch lately, although his only losses has been against the much bigger War Machine, and a gauntlet of champions and top contenders in Eddie Alvarez, Pat Curran, Gray Maynard and Kenny Florian. Is Moreira ready to prove that he belongs on that list?
More after the jump. Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena
Pictured: Zorobabel Moreira training with Shinya Aoki
"Evolve MMA is the best team in the world for me, and training here makes me ready for everything," said the ONE FC contender, confident that he can shine on this big stage.
"My teammates are tough and aggressive. Even if (Huerta's) wrestling is good, it is not as good as Heath Sims. Even if his BJJ is good, it is not as good as Gordinho. Even if his boxing is good, it is not as good as Jak (Yodsanan). Even if his Muay Thai is good it is not as good as Lamnamoon or Namsaknoi. I have the best training, with the best people and I am ready for anything."
On ONE FC 4, he has a tough task ahead of him, but the Evolve MMA product remains confident that the hard work he puts in with the world champions he trains with will be more than enough to secure the biggest victory of his career.
"It is just up to me to make sure I fight good and do not do any mistakes," he continued, "I hope it will be a good fight and will make all the fans happy, but if I can submit him straightaway I will be happy with that too."
Baroni vs. Huerta would've been guaranteed to be an entertaining scrap, but this new match up is a much more relevant and important fight in the Asian scene. It's an intriguing bout that can potentially jump start Huerta's career in the region, or it can solidify and establish a new star which takes Zorobabel from top-prospect, to true contender.
I'm not sure which scenario pushes through, but I'm definitely looking forward to see how it all plays out on June 23rd.