Adriano Moraes’ left knee which knocked out Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson on ONE’s first full card airing on TNT will likely be the image that will forever accompany the Brazilian’s career.
It also served as a great early birthday present for the ONE Championship flyweight champion, who turns 32 on April 21.
“We started to celebrate and I’m so happy. This big win can be considered a gift. This year I’m also going to celebrate 10 years in my pro MMA career. Don’t have a better way to celebrate [than to beat Johnson],” Moraes said.
Although Moraes is a multi-time flyweight champion for ONE, he never had a major platform to properly showcase himself in front of an American audience in prime time. A fight against Johnson, considered by many, including Moraes himself, the greatest flyweight in MMA history, on TNT was the perfect opportunity to showcase himself.
Moraes landed an uppercut that opened the door for him to land a big knee to knock out Johnson in the second round to retain his flyweight title.
He wasn’t nervous or pressured by the spotlight and the opponent. In fact, he was confident of his abilities and undeterred by the platform he was fighting on or the fact that he was the underdog.
“I knew I came into the fight I was the underdog, but I knew how big my talent was, how big my heart was and knew that I can do it,” Moraes said.
Moraes wasn’t the only one who was sure of his chances at a win against Johnson. Fellow American Top Team stablemate Jorge Masvidal believed he would emerge victorious.
Funny enough, Masvidal and Moraes share something in common: winning big fights with the knee. Masvidal had his great knee KO against Ben Askren at UFC 239 in 2019 and Moraes had his shining moment against Johnson.
The moral of the story, per Masvidal as told by Moraes? Knees can change lives.
Still, even with Moraes living on cloud nine from his win on April 7, he puts Masvidal’s knee KO against Askren ahead of his own.
This year I’m also going to celebrate 10 years in my pro MMA career. Don’t have a better way to celebrate [than to beat Johnson],”
“Jorge was one of the guys who came over to me and said, ‘You’re really good. I think you can win this fight with preparation and the knee can change lives.’ We have a big print at American Top Team of his knee against Ben Askren. I looked at that big print and I told him, ‘Yes, it can change lives.’ A lot of things tried to bring me to using knees. I was really happy to accept the knee. I think the Masvidal knee is still first place. Beginning of the fight, a flying knee, five seconds! It’s hard to beat,” Moraes said.
Since the win against Johnson, Moraes has received an outpour of support and kind messages from the entire MMA community, including notable fighters such as Patricky “Pitbull” and Kyoji Horiguchi. Moraes said the love he’s been getting has been amazing and despite the career momentum he’s gotten and his accomplishments, he’s not ready to put himself atop the all-time greatest MMA flyweights list yet.
— Kyoji Horiguchi (@kyoji1012) April 8, 2021
Congratulations to @adrianomkmoraes for the great win tonight! Great performance against an all time great. We need knees to the head on the ground as part of the Unified Rules. I'd love if they'd allow soccer kicks too.
— Patricky Freire (@PatrickyPitbull) April 8, 2021
“I’m so proud because these fighters are an inspiration to us and to get these kind messages was amazing. Kyoji Horiguchi is one of the best fighters in the world. He is a KO artist. We learn a lot about each other and teach each other everything… I think DJ is still in first place. He’s still the GOAT of the division and I’m still trying to write my story. I don’t think I deserve the first place. There’s a lot of really good fighters ahead of me who have made history in the division. But I know I’m in the middle of these guys,” Moraes laughed.
As for what is next for Moraes, he believes he’ll fight at least one more time this year. Even though Moraes wants to stay busy, he understands the coronavirus pandemic is making things hard for him to get fights. In regards to his options, Moraes says there is a lot of fights to considered, including a move up to bantamweight when asked about it.
“I want to fight one more time this year. I don’t know when or against who. But because of COVID, it’s hard to travel. There’s a lot of restrictions, exams. Of course, we always wish to fight and be busy but because of how things go, I think I’m only going to fight one more time this year. Against who, when, where, we shall see, but I’m going to be ready. We have a lot of options for now. I’m happy to know that I have a lot of options to do a good fight. Let’s bring the best fight to me,” Moraes said.