Zorobabel Moreira suffered only the second loss of his career in his most recent fight, but it was a devastating defeat that was difficult for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) world champion to come to terms with. He had Kotetsu Boku badly hurt and the ONE FC Lightweight belt within his reach until a perfectly timed punch early in the third round put paid to his title dream.
The main talking point up until that moment had been Boku's ability to absorb punishment as Moreira systematically set about destroying his right leg with the low kicks for which he is becoming renowned. It seemed a question of when, not if, the Japanese veteran would no longer be able to survive the onslaught but he somehow found a way to win and the Brazilian feels he has no-one but himself to blame.
"I had a very good gameplan and it was working well and I felt like I was controlling this fight but I think because I wanted to win that belt so much I was a little bit stupid. I didn't listen to Chatri Sityodtong in my corner who was telling me to stay away and to use my reach, this was the biggest fight of my life and because of that and because I really wanted to win I forgot about the gameplan and this is the reason I lost."
Moreira is not making excuses and is brutally honest about the mistakes he feels he made against Boku. It would be easy for him to dwell on the disappointment but he prefers to focus on the positives and to reflect on how far he has come since joining Evolve MMA in 2010.
"When I first came to Singapore I only really knew about BJJ, I had two MMA fights but I was like a beginner. Before I had time to work with the Muay Thai world champions there I took a fight and I was knocked out, this was very bad for me but Evolve MMA really believed in me and after that I worked on my Muay Thai every day and I became like a new fighter and won all of my next five fights."
The remarkable thing about Moreira's evolution was that despite his BJJ black belt and gold medal from the 2005 Mundials he became best known for his Muay Thai. Dropping down from 185 to 155 pounds was also a major factor as it allowed him to start using his size and reach to devastating effect.
"Lamnamoon Sor Sumalee helped me a lot, he was a champion in Thailand and was very famous for being tall and using knees. I did not believe I could fight at 70 kilos when Chatri first talked to me about this idea, I thought it was impossible, but by making me into a lightweight and teaching me Muay Thai the trainers at Evolve MMA changed my career forever."
Moreira more than earned his title shot after registering three straight stoppage wins over Andy Wang, Felipe Enomoto and Roger Huerta. He had initially been set to fight Eduard Folayang for the belt but he was unavailable due to URCC commitments, Boku was brought in as a replacement and the man known as 'Zoro' has nothing but respect for the inaugural ONE FC Lightweight Champion.
"I believed I could beat him and if we fight again I think I would win but for sure he was the favorite because I had only eight fights and he had 28 and he had been a professional for much longer than me. We knew this fight would not be easy but my trainers showed me how to beat Boku, I just became careless during the fight."
The disappointment for Moreira is exasperated because in all probability he has now lost his place in the ONE FC title queue to team mate Shinya Aoki. The last DREAM lightweight champion is in action on New Year's Eve but after that he hopes to fight for the belt and 'Zoro' says he will have no hesitation in supporting him.
"If Shinya can win the belt I will be very happy for him because he is my friend and my team mate and he has helped me a lot in training. At Evolve MMA we are a team and we all support each other, I think there is time for Shinya to win the belt and me and in the future Eddie (Ng) who has an injury now. We all help each other to succeed and if my team mate can bring the belt back to Evolve MMA I will be very happy."
While Moreira knows he will have to begin the process of working his way into title contention all over again he is anxious to begin it as soon as possible and hopes to be on the card at ONE FC: "Return of Warriors" which is taking place at the Stadium Putra in Malaysia on Feb. 2, 2013.
"ONE FC is where all the best fighters in Asia want to fight and it is a big honor for me to be with the biggest MMA promotion here. I want to fight on every show, if it was up to me I would fight all the time and that is why it is better that I let my coaches make these decisions. I hope I can fight in Malaysia in February, the fans there are very good and for sure they remember my soccer kick of Roger Huerta so I hope I can fight there again."
The ONE FC press conference is set for tomorrow morning local time in Malaysia and two 'huge' announcements are promised. MMAmania.com will have all the details as they emerge.