Rob Font scored a signature win at UFC Vegas 17 on Dec. 19 to close out the UFC’s calendar year when he knocked out former bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes.
Rob Font Gets His Big UFC Win
The win propelled Font to top-5 status in one of the promotion’s most talent-rich divisions. Tyson Chartier, Font’s manager at TopGame Management and coach at New England Cartel, believes big things are on the horizon for Font.
Chartier noted that Font has had a few opportunities to score a huge win: Raphael Assuncao, John Lineker, and Pedro Munhoz. Font was given another opportunity against Moraes, and he took full advantage.
“I’d definitely say he got the monkey off his back fighting the short Brazilian who’s ranked in the top-10,” Chartier told MMASucka. “There’s no way around saying that’s the biggest win, because it’s by far his biggest win.”
Following his win, Font called out former bantamweight kingpin T.J. Dillashaw. Jose Aldo, the promotion’s former featherweight champion, who fought on the same card as Font, also called for a contest with Dillashaw.
Chartier said he did not know Font would call out Dillashaw, as he didn’t want his fighter to lose focus due to pre-fight discussions of his potential next opponent. However, Chartier sees the merit to Font’s message to Dillashaw.
“I think throwing T.J.’s name out there gets you in the news,” Chartier said. “If you get the fight, that’s great; if you don’t get the fight, people are still talking about it. I think the big takeaway is [Font’s] established himself as someone who can headline a card, which has always been a dream of his.”
Font showed he could headline a card when he knocked Moraes out in under four minutes, Chartier said. The upset marked Moraes’ quickest defeat during his UFC tenure. Moraes only other UFC losses were to Assuncao, former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, and title contender Cory Sandhagen.
“Font was able to put him away faster than anyone else has been able to put him away,” Chartier said. “There’s a buzz around him right now, and I think he’s earned the right to headline a card.”
Bantamweight Title Picture
Chartier feels Font is one fight away from a title shot of his own – depending on his next opponent. Font could also fight for a title next should an injury occur, his coach believes.
“I’ve been saying this whole camp that a win against Moraes puts him exactly where Calvin Kattar is now,” Chartier said. “Obviously, [Font and Kattar] are teammates. Calvin is sitting at No. 6, and now he’s fighting the No. 1; he’s one fight away from the title shot. If he beats [Max Holloway], Calvin will fight for a title. I think Rob is in that same place now. He’s earned the right to get a big, big name fight as a headliner, and if he wins, get a title shot.”
Much of the bantamweight division is currently booked or part of a logjam. Champion Petr Yan was slated to defend his belt against No. 1 contender Aljamain Sterling on Dec. 12 before Yan withdrew, though Sterling told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani the fight could be booked in February or March. Sandhagen is booked to fight Frankie Edgar in February. Cody Garbrandt was slated to drop to flyweight to fight champion Deiveson Figueiredo in November before tearing his bicep. Those are all the contenders ahead of Font in the bantamweight rankings, and there’s the groundwork laid for Aldo and Dillashaw to face off.
“In a perfect world, Aljamain Sterling pulls out of the title fight, and we jump in and fight for the title in February,” Chartier said. “I don’t want anybody to get hurt or anything like that, but maybe something happens where one of those guys can’t fight and we fight Aljamain Sterling for an interim or we fight Petr Yan for the title.”
Chartier said he and Font have to be “patient and open” to whoever the UFC offers, though he wants his fighter to get active again.
“We’re not going to be desperate and fight down at No. 10 or 12, or something like that,” Chartier said. “It’d be nice to fight another one of these top-five guys.”
Munhoz is scheduled to fight Jimmie Rivera just days after Kattar is slated to fight Holloway; both cards being on Fight Island. Font and Chartier will be on the island for Kattar’s bout. If Munhoz or Rivera were to pull out, Chartier said Font could step in. He’d also be open to Font replacing Sandhagen or Edgar should one of them pull out before Feb. 6.
“Our big thing right now is for Rob to stay in the gym and keep his weight low, keep training and be ready to jump in on short notice,” Chartier said.
Rob Font’s Successful Return
The Moraes win marked Font’s return to the Octagon for the first time in more than a year after Font required ACL surgery. Chartier was pleased with how the fight went, but how Font vanquished Moraes wasn’t the most impressive aspect.
“He did what we expected him to do,” Chartier said. “We were prepared for the guillotine, and we were prepared for getting stuck on the bottom and getting safe exits. Overall, his ability to come back from a major injury and not have any mental doubts during camp; it kind of put together a blueprint to younger fighters on how you deal with a major injury, a comeback, and then going right into a huge fight and dealing with all the mental pressures and anxieties that come with that.
“He laid a blueprint for other fighters to follow showing that ring rust isn’t a real thing. You can beat the best in the world even coming off an injury and year-layoff. What I was most impressed with was his composure after being out for another year.”
Entering the training camp, Chartier said he had a feeling Font could finish Moraes, who returned only two months after getting knocked out by Sandhagen.
“I knew Marlon was bugging for a fight coming off the loss. That’s usually how it happens: They get a loss – a contender like that – they get clipped and knocked out, and they’re like, ‘I need to wash that taste out of my mouth.’ They want a quick turnaround.
“I always air on the side of caution with head trauma. I thought it was way too soon for [Moraes] to be coming back. I’ve said it in many interviews that we’re catching [Moraes] at the right time, and that’s what I meant.”
Chartier knew Moraes had minimal time to rest following the Sandhagen bout, especially since he jumped right back into training camp.
“I knew that we’d be able to touch him, and he’d probably be a little bit more vulnerable than he would’ve been if he hadn’t just got knocked out.”