LAS VEGAS – When he had a three-fight skid, former flyweight title challenger John Moraga was starting to have doubts about whether or not he should keep pursuing the UFC dream.
Those losses were to some pretty tough cats, though: Joseph Benavidez, Matheus Nicolau and Sergio Pettis. In July, he got his first win in two and half years when he outpointed Ashkan Mokhtarian. But this past Saturday, he got arguably the most important win of his career.
Moraga (18-6 MMA, 7-5 UFC) was a big underdog against 6-1 favorite Magomed Bibulatov (14-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who was unbeaten going into the fight. Moraga knocked him out with a vicious left hand, giving him two wins in a row, and leaving him a bit emotional.
“There’s a lot of relief,” Moraga told MMAjunkie after the fight. “I’m just glad I was able to go out there and perform. I don’t really even pay attention (to the odds). I knew I was fighting a tough Russian, and I was just ready for a war. At this level, we’ve got to just expect to go in there and fight our heart out for 15 minutes and be hurt and still keep fighting. That’s what I was preparing for.”
But Moraga isn’t that far removed from thinking about the chance that, heck, he may have walked away from the sport had he suffered a fourth straight loss when he beat Mokhtarian.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my personal life leading up to this fight,” he said. “I was on a three-fight losing (skid) not long ago. And something hit me in there and it was a big relief off my shoulders.”
Moraga said thinking about needing to fight outside the UFC and try to earn his way back would mean he’d probably walk away from fighting. The UFC is his job, he said, because it’s his way to help provide for his children’s future.
“At this point, it’s a rough sport,” he said. “If I’m not going to be able to do it at the highest level anymore, if I was to get cut, I don’t see why I’d put myself through that. I’ve got kids. I’m focused on my kids. I do this for my kids. I’m trying to buy a house and put them through college. That’s my only purpose for doing this. I don’t really care about anything else. I’m not really good on the microphone. I don’t really care about taking pictures or being around people. At that point, that was what was going through my head.
“I do (enjoy the sport). It’s fun. What else would I be doing? This is me. But at the same time, you want to make it worth it, too. There’s no backup plan.”
For more from Moraga, check out the video above.
And for complete coverage of UFC 216, check out the UFC Events section of the site.