UFC flyweight contender Alexandre Pantoja has responded to comments made by Brandon Moreno following their interaction this past weekend.
The MMA leader opened its pay-per-view schedule for the new year in Rio de Janeiro last Saturday. The event had an unsuccessful end for the local fans, with both Glover Teixeira and Deiveson Figueiredo failing to leave the Octagon inside the Jeunesse Arena with UFC gold.
Prior to Teixeira’s five-round beating at the hands of Jamahal Hill and subsequent retirement, Figueiredo failed to defend the flyweight belt in his fourth meeting with Moreno, whose powerful left hook in round three forced an end to the contest after the Brazilian’s eye swelled shut.
Despite having just achieved victory in a historical tetralogy, Moreno was quickly forced to think about the first defense of his second reign — quicker than he’d have liked.
The catalyst for that was Pantoja, who was present in Rio having seemingly cemented his place as next in line when an impressive display against Alex Perez last year extended his win streak to three.
In footage captured backstage following Moreno’s victory, he can be seen interacting with the Brazilian. While the conversation appeared to begin in a cordial fashion, the Mexican later suggested that Pantoja became overly “aggressive” while demanding a timeframe for his expected title opportunity.
Now, “The Cannibal” has responded to that claim, insisting he had every right to be granted a timeline.
Pantoja Hits Back At Moreno: “I Wasn’t Being Disrespectful”
Addressing his actions backstage, which many branded as premature having only just seen Moreno win back the belt and close the Figueiredo chapter of his career, the #2-ranked flyweight contender suggested he felt “obligated” as an employee of an entertainment business to “do something.”
While that would perhaps suggest that Pantoja was looking to spark some sort of animosity to build their feud, he went on to criticize Moreno’s remarks at the post-fight presser, accusing the Mexican of attempting to paint him as a “villain.”
“I was a little upset about that,” Pantoja said. “I was working. This is entertainment. I went there because I felt obligated as a UFC employee, I had to do something, to make an appearance, to create something, but I respect Moreno a lot. I’ve known Moreno for a long time, we had a nice exchange on TUF and that’s what matters to me. … I have a ton of respect for him, the family he’s built, his wife and kids, so when I go there to congratulate him and also work, of course, I’m not being disrespectful or trying to take anything away from his moment. It saddens me that he thinks this way.
Pantoja also noted that if he truly was going to be “disrespectful” following Moreno’s championship crowning, he could have reiterated a past sentiment surrounding the Mexican’s two defeats to him.
“And honestly, let’s be clear here, he lost twice to me. I could say he was afraid of me, that he’s afraid of fighting me, but I doubt it, man,” Pantoja stated. “The Mexican people are strong. He’s a great athlete and has shown incredible evolution against Deiveson Figueiredo. I really want Brandon Moreno to come a better fighter, in his prime.”
The Brazilian’s first victory over “The Assassin Baby” came during their stint on The Ultimate Fighter in 2016, with Pantoja submitting Moreno via rear-naked choke in the second round.
The pair collided two years later, this time in a professional bout under the UFC banner. Pantoja once again had his hand raised, outpointing the Mexican on all three scorecards.
Back in 2021, when “The Assassin Baby” held the flyweight title for the first time, Pantoja suggested that the then-champ was likely afraid of losing to him yet again.
What did you make of Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja’s interaction at UFC 283?
Quotes h/t MMA Fighting.