Saturday night on UFC On FOX 8, John Moraga will face Demetrious Johnson in a flyweight championship bout. It's something that John has dreamed of and worked towards for the last four years. Those four years may seem like a short span of time, considering some fighters spend twice that amount of time, or even more, just to get in title contention conversation.
For Moraga, it's been a steady ascent of 14 fights, with only one single blemish on his record, and that being to a top ranked opponent in John Dodson. His first two UFC appearances ended in fantastic finishes, and he hopes to continue the trend when he meets Mighty Mouse in the octagon.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Moraga, who was very candid about the rough road he's traveled to get to this point in his career. Being broke, not having enough money for gas or even food was almost routine for the Arizona native, who plans on seizing every opportunity in his quest for UFC gold. Here's what he had to say about hardship being his number 1 motivating factor:
Is the Mouse Really Mighty?
I don't know that Demetrious is the toughest guy at flyweight, but I do think he may be the hardest guy to beat. I think there are more dangerous guys in the division than Demetrious Johnson. I'm not going to leave it in the judge's hands. I'm going in there to finish the fight. If for some reason it does go to a decision, I'm going to have to be very dominant to get the win.
I think the UFC does a good job taking care of us, especially if we go out and put on a good performance. Every time I get in the cage, I fight as though it's to keep my job. I think that fighters that just do enough to win, won't have much longevity in their career. They might rack up some wins, but as soon as they get a loss or two, the UFC won't have a need for them. I go in there to entertain. I want to be there for the long haul.
Putting In The Work
Guys like me, that aren't really well known, we've got to work our way up on these cards. We've got to show the UFC that we're top tier fighters, and I don't have a problem with that. If you don't make it in the UFC, there's really not many options. I don't think anywhere else is comparable to the UFC, as far as pay goes. If you're not in the UFC, I don't think you can make a really solid career from MMA.
Getting In The Game
There were definitely times where I was second guessing whether I was gonna be able to do this. I've always felt that I was a natural at fighting, and my faith in myself is what got me through. I didn't finish college, so I didn't really have anything else. It was kind of like my only option. I didn't want to go work a minimum wage job.
I've been broke, like at rock bottom, with no way to get to practice, no way to feed myself. I had a girlfriend, but I didn't want to tell her or anybody else. I didn't want to ask for a handout, so I suffered for a good little time period there. I'd either ride a bicycle to practice or sneak onto the lightrail to get to practice.
I wasn't eating right, and was physically drained all the time, but I wanted to make it happen so bad. One of my teammates noticed that something was wrong with me, and he eventually got me to tell him what was going on. He ended up taking me to the grocery store and hooked me up with some food. That was probably my lowest point in getting to where I'm at today, but it definitely built some character within me.
Growing Up In Lean Times
I've gone through lean times like that my whole life, though. My family never had much money. Our fridge was never full. We used to get the food boxes sent to our house, the expired stuff that we never knew where it came from. I didn't ask my parents for things, toys or whatever like my friends did, because I already knew they didn't have the money for it. I've been through rough times my whole life.
My career is for my kids. I want to give them the stuff I never had when I was growing up. I never want them to have to want for anything. I want to give them all the extras. I don't know what Demetrious' life was like, but I'm pretty sure that this fight, and winning it, means more to me than just about anyone on earth.
You can follow John via his Twitter, @ChicanoJohn