A native of Tijuana, Brandon Moreno grew up accompanying his parents on business trips into America while they sold their wares: piñatas. Given the family business’ product of choice, perhaps it’s no surprise Moreno grew up to be an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter who smashes opponents in the Octagon for a living.
Moreno, 21-7-2, has had a great deal of success as a professional smasher of other humans and was champion of the UFC’s flyweight division, until he lost the title in a July bout against Brazilian fighter Alexandre Pantoja, after five hard-fought rounds via split decision. UFC’s first Mexican-born champion, Moreno suffered a broken hand in the first round of the fight with Pantoja, according to UFC president Dana White.
The hand was just one of the injuries Moreno, who partnered with Jose Cuervo to promote the recent Noche UFC event in Las Vegas, had to recover from after stepping into the Octagon in Las Vegas. Speaking with Moreno, who is hoping for another shot at Pantoja and the flyweight belt this fall, we asked him about what it takes for him to heal up after a UFC fight and what motivates him to continue to step into the Octagon.
InsideHook: After a fight, what’s the first thing you do to try to get yourself feeling normal again?
Brandon Moreno: At this point in my career, I have a lot of stress all day, every day. After a fight, I’m trying to recover my mind. I’m trying to spend more time with my family. I’m trying to spend more time with my friends outside of the gym because all my friends are from my gym. I’m trying to get out of that place and rest my mind. When I was the challenger, it was very important to be on the grind for hours in the gym. After a fight, I had to go to the gym immediately. But at this point, in this kind of sport, I need to take care of my mind, so that is what I’m doing. Cold showers are also really good for inflammation. They help with stress and your mind too.
IH: Do you have anything specific that you do to work on your mind before a fight?
BM: I just try to believe in the process. I know what I’m doing, so I need to believe in myself. Sometimes when you have a lot of voices around you saying how tough your opponent is and that he can beat you, you start to believe in those people. You need to be very, very close with yourself and be very focused on your mentality. In the moment, when I’m in the locker room waiting for the fight, I’m just ready to fight. I had all the preparation and I have a game plan, so I’m ready. That’s it.
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IH: What is it like adjusting your mindset after a fight is over?
BM: Almost exactly when the ref stops the fight and says it is over, the switch, at least for me, flips off. That’s it. I don’t know if other fighters have another mentality or another opinion, but for me, it’s like, “Let’s just stop.” I come back to myself and say, “OK, this is the Brandon Moreno who is very nice to people and very respectful.” I turn off all the switches of the aggressive and crazy fighter. I just need to hear the fight is over and that’s it.
IH: What’s the difference between how you feel after winning or losing a fight?
BM: When you come up with a win, it’s easy. You’re happy, you’re enjoying the moment and the people are asking you for pictures, all that kind of stuff. I’m having fun with my wife. I’m having fun with my training partner and with my friends. It’s simple. When you lose, all the sadness and all the frustrations enter your life. You start to ask yourself if you are ready to keep going. In those moments, I’m just trying to be around my loved ones. I want to be with my wife and daughters and let time heal my mind. It’s about how much you can keep going after a bad moment. Normally, people never challenge themselves. In fighting, you can discover all your abilities. You can discover you have an amazing heart and enough weapons to push yourself.
IH: How much of fighting in UFC is mental and how much of it is physical?
BM: If we’re talking about a percentage, I think like 85% or 90% mental. In my experience, I’ve seen a lot of guys who are amazing athletes and fighters in the gym who have great sparring rounds. But when they need to go to the Octagon, something happens. Their abilities go very low. They don’t fight how they fight in the gym because they need to think about it. There are the lights, the people around you in the arena and your opponent in front of you trying to kill you. That is hard for your mind. On the other side, I’ve seen a lot of guys who maybe don’t have amazing abilities or technical skills, but they fight with their heart, man, and they make trouble.
IH: Is there a special food or meal you will eat after a fight that you wouldn’t eat beforehand?
BM: Before a fight, I need to eat very clean. I diet for about two months and every single week I start to cut things like carbs. I’m a human being, so I love to eat pizza, burgers, everything. But at the same time, I’m a professional and I need to make weight. After a fight, I’m trying to eat everything. It sounds cliché, but I love tacos. I think they’re the most simple and delicious food on the planet. I’m from the north, where we eat a lot of tacos adobada — pork tacos. I’m not a big drinker, but after a fight when I’m trying to recover myself and spend time with my family, I like some margaritas with Cuervo, but it’s not like I drink too much or get hungover.