UFC's No. 1-ranked flyweight Brandon Moreno joins Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole ahead of his interim title bout versus Kai Kara-France on Saturday at UFC 277 in Dallas. The former champion discusses his trilogy with Deiveson Figueiredo, losing his belt and what he expects from Kara-France in their matchup.
KEVIN IOLE: What is up, everybody? I am Kevin Iole. And he is back. It seems like every other weekend this guy is fighting. The former flyweight champion-- perhaps the future flyweight champion, the assassin baby-- Brandon Moreno.
On Saturday at UFC 277 in Dallas, he will be fighting Kai Kara-France for the interim championship. We'll get into that a little bit. Brandon, Kai Kara-France. It's nice to see a different face than Deiveson Figueiredo, I guess, right?
BRANDON MORENO: [LAUGHS] It's a little bit crazy because, I mean, it's a rematch. I fought against him in 2019. But yeah, after three fights in a row with the same guy, with Deiveson, right now, it's a little refresh to watch another-- another face.
I'm excited, man. I'm excited. We will talk about it. But I feel ready. I'm putting weight, like I said before.
I finished my workout in the morning. I came here to my home, to rest a little bit. Tomorrow I fly to Dallas.
And I'm ready. My weight this is perfect. I had some good problems with my weight because I put my-- the goal to win some muscle after my last fight, and I did it. I did it.
But now you need to start--
KEVIN IOLE: You'll have to lose muscle to weight [INAUDIBLE].
BRANDON MORENO: Exactly. But right now, my weight is perfect, so that's it.
KEVIN IOLE: Let's talk about that last fight with Figueiredo. You fought him three times, as you mentioned. You had a draw. Then you won. And then the third fight, he won, and he got the title back.
Was it hard to take-- because I know you felt like you won, and you were a class act at the press conference afterwards. But how difficult was that for you to accept in the days and weeks afterwards, when you felt like you had done everything you needed to do to keep the title?
BRANDON MORENO: I can't lie to you. I was very frustrated at that moment. I was very disappointed with myself. I lost my previous title-- defense, I lost my title. Man, was terrible.
But one of the things-- it gave me a lot of success in my career-- is like, you need to have short memory. You need to pass the page quickly because this sport is like that. If our focus is something that happened before, man, you need to-- you need to keep going forward. You need to evolve in this sport.
I watched my last fight to see all my mistakes because, man, even-- I still thinking I won to fight. But, I mean, I don't want to be like arrogant and, like, no I won, and, you know? I want to evolve in this.
So I was watching the last fight to fix all my mistakes. And man, right now, I feel very confident. I'm very confident I did it.
KEVIN IOLE: So you said a couple of minutes ago that you're putting on muscle. Was that because there was something in the last fight with Deiveson where you felt like maybe you were lacking a little bit of muscle or strength?
BRANDON MORENO: So I tried-- I tried to do it before, when I won the title. I tried to do it. But I remember, in that moment, it was weird because I tried to get a fight quick, like, fast. A lot of names was there in the table, like Pantoja, Figueiredo, too, again, Askarov. So I don't want to start to win muscle there because you need to cut weight.
But in this one, I tried to win muscle with the knowledge my fight will be maybe in the middle of the year or something like that. So I did it, and I did well. And that's happening.
And obviously, my goal was to get to win muscle because Figueiredo is a huge guy, man. He's a huge, huge guy.
KEVIN IOLE: He's really a bantamweight. Let's be serious, right?
BRANDON MORENO: Man, I know. So that's a little area I can improve with myself. But I don't care. I'm. Ready just to fight obviously, right now it's Kai Kara-France. He's smaller than Figueiredo.
But man, I have I still have the explosion. I still have the cardio, the speed. Let's see what happens in the fight. But man, right now, I feel very powerful.
KEVIN IOLE: In a way, he's similar to you because you fought-- as you mentioned, it's a rematch. You fought at UFC 245. You want a decision there.
He lost two out of three, starting with you. He lost two out of three fights. And then, after that, he's reeled off three successive wins and looked very impressive. And you mentioned Askarov , and he had a really impressive victory over Askarov. What do you see different in-- if anything, in Kai during his three fight winning streak compared to when you fought him?
BRANDON MORENO: Yes, so, I mean, we can talk about different stuff with technique and that stuff. But I think the most thing he improved is his confidence.
He lost with me. Then he won against Tyson Nam. But he lost again against Royval But after that, he looks, like, different, against Bontorin, against Cody Garbrandt, the last one against Askarov.
He looks very impressive. But he looks more brave and more confidence in everything-- with more confidence in the octagon. And that's very important. Because now he's a father; he has a family; he lost. All that stuff-- when somebody depends on your work, it gives you some motivation, extra motivation.
And man, I can tell you that because I'm a father of three daughters. So I have the same motivation. So that's it, man. We can talk about technique, but I think the most important here is his confidence.
KEVIN IOLE: You guys, in that last fight, came out there and right away he started firing away. And it was a really entertaining fight. Both you guys were landing some hard shots.
Do you remember anything, Brandon-- like, was he a particularly hard puncher? Was there anything that you learned in that fight that you feel like you have that you concern yourself with going into the rematch?
BRANDON MORENO: Man, definitely, I need to take care of his right hand. [CHUCKLES] He has a really nice right overhand. It's dangerous in that area. And the guy maybe don't try too much to wrestle or don't try to go to the ground and try some jujitsu, try to submit his opponents.
So the main thing right now, here, is the striking. He changed, very well, these levels, and he had the-- the overhand. So man, that's something important-- when you have a fight against somebody you know-- that's it, because I put all my work and my game plan in-- based on that fight, and, obviously, doing my homework and watching his fights and everything with my team.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you feel like-- sometimes when you have an interim championship fight, it's tough to feel like you're the champion. Figueiredo won the last fight. Whatever you think of how the scoring went, the judges gave him the decision. His hand was raised in the ring.
And here you are fighting somebody else for the title, and it's only been a couple of months-- six months since he last fought. How is that going to feel if you win? Will you feel the same way as you did when you submitted him before and actually won the belt? Do you think it'll feel the same way?
BRANDON MORENO: Man, you know what, Kevin? In the moment when Dana White put that belt around my body, I don't care nothing about interim or whatever.
I'm the real one. I'm the real one. I'm there to fight. The other guys start to put a bunch of excuses-- excuse and excuse, start to lie-- to lie about me, about my personality. Then injuries. Then he wanted more money. What a mess-- that guy.
In every single moment, I was able to fight. So that's it. In the moment when Dana White came with-- come with the belt, I'm the real one. I'm the real flyweight champion of the world.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you feel like, if you win this fight-- and obviously, I don't want to get too far ahead because you haven't fought this fight yet. But you feel like you'll see him again, or do you think his days as a flyweight are over?
BRANDON MORENO: I don't know, Kevin. Obviously, right now I'm putting a lot of focus on Kai Kara-France. I respect him too much. I know he's a dangerous opponent.
And I think that was the mistake of his last opponents. Those guys-- they start to think they pass already Kai Kara-France, and you need to understand he's dangerous.
So I don't know. I don't know my future right now, until Saturday. But I'll be ready. If I don't have any injury or whatever in this fight, I'll be ready to fight before the end of the year.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you this. Dana White said something about you that I thought was interesting. I was just talking to him a while back.
And he was saying-- I mentioned that, hey, you were going to be a great star for Mexican fans and be able to build the Mexican fan base. And while he agreed with that, he said, you are a star period, not just among Mexican fans or anybody else's fans. You're a star among all fans.
And I wonder, do you feel like-- can you tell that you've grown a fan base and that you have a bigger following than you had, say, before your first fight with Figueiredo?
BRANDON MORENO: Actually, yes. I think my fan base-- the biggest one is in Mexico, and then in the United States, I have a huge fan base, too.
But I can feel a much-- too much love from different countries. Actually, four months, in March, I went to London and I had a meet-and-greet there. A lot of people was there and very excited to know me. And man, that's awesome. Feels great.
I don't know if I'm a star or not. I try to don't think about it. If that happened, I love it. Thank you so much. If not, it's fine for me. I just want to be nice with the people, and that's it, man. Maybe I need to do more-- I need to do more crazy stuff in social media, or I need to do more interviews, maybe.
KEVIN IOLE: You're doing plenty, and you're doing great. Hey, let's wrap it up with this. How do you see the fight going down? So I know you talked about-- you got to be aware of his right hand. Do you think you finish him? How do you see it playing out?
BRANDON MORENO: My goal is to finish him. Last fight was decision-- unanimous decision. But I think it will be awesome for me-- just a challenge, a test to finish Kai Kara-France. Like, here's one I-- was a decision. In this one, finish him-- knockout, submission, whatever to kill. Doesn't matter. I just want to finish him.
KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. Take care of eye, and we will see you on Saturday.
BRANDON MORENO: Yes, sir.
KEVIN IOLE: Brandon Moreno, UFC 277, in Dallas against Kai Kara-France for the interim flyweight title. Brandon, always fun talking to you. Thank you so much, my friend.
BRANDON MORENO: Awesome, Kevin. Have a nice day, all right?
KEVIN IOLE: You, too.