Former UFC title challenger and ex-WSOF champion Marlon ‘Magic’ Moraes has retired from the sport of MMA. He leaves behind a career that saw him inches away from glory, whilst experiencing the soul crushing hardships of loss.
Moraes confirmed his retirement in a statement to MMAFighting.
“I want to thank everyone — Sean Shelby, Dana White and the UFC for giving me so many opportunities,” Moraes said. “I wanna thank my family, my coaches, my manager, everybody who has been around and been part of my career. I want to say thank you to Mark Henry, Ricardo Almeida, Frankie Edgar, Anderson Franca and Hunter Campbell.
“I’m still gonna be around the sport helping young guys and helping my friends.”
Hailing from Nova Friburgo, Brazil, Marlon Moraes has been a lifelong martial artist. His first martial art (the base for his elite striking) was Muay Thai, where he learned his signature bone crushing kicks. He rounded out his skill set by training BJJ at age 15, but found success primarily with Muay Thai on the national circuit. Looking for a new challenge, the Brazil native decided to try his hand at MMA.
After a shaky start with a record of 7-4-1 in his first 12 fights, he looked as if he would go on to have a fairly average MMA career.
Making his debut with the company on their first event, Marlon Moraes picked up his first big stage win via split decision against Miguel Torres. His rise through the ranks of the WSOF continued with an impressive 11-fight win streak, winning the WSOF bantamweight title on March 29, 2014, with a unanimous decision win over Josh Rettinghouse. With notable wins over Tyson Nam and Josh Hill in the WSOF and with five title defences under his belt he gained the interest of the UFC.
Inches from Greatness
His debut with the UFC was against the underrated Raphael Assunção in 2017, in which he dropped a decision to his fellow Brazilian, via a controversial split decision. Despite this initial blip in his career, he went up against UFC veteran John Dodson; this time on the winning side of a split decision. Now 1-1 in the UFC, his next challenge was against another promising bantamweight, the current champion, Aljermain Sterling. This fight would turn out to be his crowning achievement in retrospect, as he landed a beautiful switch knee KO to counter Sterling’s takedown attempt in the first round.
With his highlight reel KO over Sterling, the Brazilian Moraes claimed another trophy win over Jimmie Rivera, putting an end to the American’s 20-fight win-streak. Again, he showcased his elite striking with a head kick KO in the first round.
Following on from back to back finishes over Rivera and Sterling, Moraes was again matched up with Assunção, this time earning a submission win over the BJJ specialist with a guillotine on Feb. 19, 2019. This victory would put him in line to compete for the title against Henry Cejudo, the then-UFC Flyweight champion, who was coming up in weight in a bid to become a two-weight champion. Cejudo was also coming off a KO win over TJ Dillashaw and a decision win over the flyweight GOAT Demetrious Johnson.
During the first round Marlon was dominating the fight on the feet, winning the first round comfortably. However, the tide would turn as the Olympic champion Cejudo was able to figure his man out on the feet; taking advantage of his superior endurance to grind out a TKO victory in the third. A new king was crowned and the surging contender was beaten for a second time in the UFC.
Fellow Brazilian and the self-proclaimed ‘King of Rio’, Jose Aldo was next in line to face the former title challenger. The former UFC and WEC featherweight champion and living legend had moved down to bantamweight to renew his career, making his debut in the division against Moraes. The fight between the two was close, with Moraes seemingly unwilling to engage in a firefight with the fast twitch counter striker in Aldo, opting instead to be elusive with his back against the cage. Aldo was forced to be the aggressor for three rounds but ultimately lost the decision to Moraes. After a controversial win, things took a downward spiral from there.
From Great Highs, to Great Lows
Moraes, despite the controversy of his prior bout with Aldo, has always been a huge fan favorite for his knock-out power and bone-breaking kicks. So excitement was high when Marlon Moraes was set to fight Cory Sandhagen, another elite striker with an unorthodox arsenal to go against the more fundamental skill set of the Brazilian. Unfortunately for Moraes, the fight ended via a spinning wheel kick finish in the second, a common theme for the rest of his career.
Bantamweight is comparable to the lightweight division, the depth of skill is so deep that the slightest drop in form could result in dire consequences. After his defeat to Sandhagen, Moraes was on the receiving end of back-to-back KO/TKO losses to the likes of Rob Font, Merab Dvalishvili and the young prospect Song Yadong. It appeared that Moraes was unlikely to ever challenge for a title again, and in April 2022 he announced his retirement from the sport of MMA.
Marlon Moraes: Career in Retrospect
Marlon Moraes has had a great career, his valiant attempt at capturing glory and reaching the peak of his division is a feat worthy of praise. From his dominant run in the WSOF to his highlight reel KOs in the UFC, his career has been memorable, and he will go down as one of the best to not win a UFC championship. His health is the most important thing, as being on the receiving end of 4 finishes would be a just cause for retirement. Hopefully Moraes retires proud of his accomplishments within the sport of MMA.
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