Zorobabel Moreira Jnr, known to absolutely everybody as Zoro is a gentle giant. He stands an imposing 6"3' and has a stocky, muscular frame but anyone who has spent any time with the former BJJ world champion finds it difficult to imagine he could actually hurt people for a living.
Perhaps this is why Zoro's finishing move of choice is the choke. He would rather send an opponent gently to sleep than risk doing them any long term damage with a potentially more painful submission. The softly spoken Brazilian who is based in Singapore is slowly getting to grips with the English language and is a hugely popular among staff and students at Evolve MMA where he lives, trains and teaches.
Here you can see Zoro being interviewed at Evolve MMA, where he is busy preparing for his September 3rd fight with Andy Wang at ONE Fighting Championship;
If the Brazilian seems a little overwhelmed with emotion it is probably because life has not always been this good. By his own admission,
"I didn't have any life in Brazil and when Evolve gave me this opportunity, it was a dream for me. Now I have a great life here in Singapore."
It is his submission skills which gave him the impetus to leave behind a life of poverty by switching South America for Singapore. Zoro is a decorated grappler who has lost count of the number of BJJ matches he has had. He has won tournaments including the Brazil nationals and the BJJ Mundials which makes him one of the strongest submission fighters in the world of MMA today, particularly in Asia where there are far fewer ground fighters.
Ironically, considering that he had developed into such an outstanding submission fighter, Zoro actually fell in love with fighting due to a sport which is more typically associated with Thailand than Brazil,
"When I was a little boy I wanted to learn Muay Thai after seeing it on TV but there was no Muay Thai where I lived so I decided to learn BJJ instead. It took me ten years of training for hours every day to get my black belt," he said.
Zoro's dream of learning Muay Thai is now being realized at Evolve MMA. The team there includes a number of top level Thai fighters such as Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Orono Wor Petchpun, Attachai Fairtex and Anuwat Kaesamrit. He is working tirelessly on his stand up skills and was planning on making his professional Muay Thai debut in June until he got a last minute opportunity to fight welterweight veteran Ferrid Kheder at DARE Fight Sports in Bangkok.
Zoro took the fight at less than ten days notice and also declined to withdraw when his opponent weighed in well over the 77 kgs weight limit. It was a decision which paid dividends as the Brazilian showcased some of his new found stand up skills landing a series of knees and teeps on route to a clear cut decision victory.
Kheder has had five times as many fights as Zoro and has been in there with the likes of Hermes Franca and Paulo Thiago. This victory demonstrated that Zoro is ready to make a name for himself as a mixed martial artist as well as a ground fighter and going three full rounds with a strong stand up fighter who had seven KOs/TKOs to his name and never been stopped will have done wonders for his confidence.
Strikeforce signing Joe Ray he was knocked out with a perfectly timed right hook barely ten seconds into the opening round. At the time it was a huge setback but Zoro has bounced back with two straight wins and thinks that ultimately he learned from this experience,
"I was sad for a few days but then I realized that I needed to learn Muay Thai. So I trained hard."
The results of that training were there for all to see in the three round fight with Kheder and as well as working on his Muay Thai skills Zoro is also taking a more scientific approach to his weight at the initiative of the coaching team at Evolve MMA. He has dropped all the way down from 185 lbs to 155 lbs and will be an absolute giant at lightweight, gentle or otherwise,
"Making weight is no problem. I just have to diet carefully and watch what I eat. I am normally around 80 kilos when I don't fight. I will be 70 kilos for this fight...no problem."
Zoro is believed to have done multiple test cuts to ensure that his 6"3' frame really can sustain a 155 lbs body and they are reported to have gone well. Making weight might be 'no problem' for the Brazilian but it is sure to give his next opponent plenty to think about.
Andy Wang who was born in Taiwan and is a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show is the man charged with the task of welcoming Zoro to the lightweight division. It will, quite literally, be a tall order because Wang is only 5"6' and will be an incredible eight inches shorter than his opponent.
Wang has spent most of his professional career fighting in the US where weight cutting is much more prevalent than Asia so will be used to fighting with a slight size advantage. He made his professional MMA debut over a decade ago and will be busy formulating a game plan with his team in Las Vegas.
ONE Fighting Championship has created enormous excitement amongst Asian and Asian based fighters and Wang will be representing Taiwan, the country of his birth, on the international stage while Zoro will be fighting in front of the supportive fans in his adoptive home of Singapore.
With 12,000 people in attendance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and potentially hundreds of millions watching on either domestic TV in Singapore, ESPN Star Sports all across Asia or the internet stream throughout the rest of the world ONE Fighting Championship is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these fighters to make a name for themselves in front of an audience which is unprecedented in MMA history.
If Zoro could add the name of Andy Wang to a list of victims which already includes Ferrid Kheder and improve his record to 5-1 in the process it would instantly establish him as arguably the man to beat in one of ONE Fighting Championship's most competitive divisions.
No-one is going to relish taking on a 155lber who is 6"3' and has won world championships in BJJ and the prospect of facing Zoro will surely strike fear throughout the lightweight division. To his family and friends the concept that anyone could feel afraid of this softly spoken and humble man might seem slightly ridiculous but it should also serve as a timely reminder that you should never judge a book by it's cover.
Zoro seems to greet everyone he encounters with a smile, a handshake, a warm embrace and some kind words in broken English. He exudes happiness and his infectious enthusiasm is one of the reasons he has become such a popular figure in Singapore. The Brazilian is loving life and he isn't shy about sharing the good news with others,
"Ever since I was a little boy I have dreamed of being a fighter and now my dreams are all starting to come true. I have great students and a lot of good friends and I am so happy here in Singapore."
On September 3rd at ONE Fighting Championship Zoro will have the perfect chance to show the world that, not only is he a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division, but that in MMA nice guys need not necessarily finish last.
For more information about ONE Fighting Championship visit: www.onefc.com.