It’s Friday, July 13. The sun has gone down and the clock is about to strike midnight. John Moraga is finally getting to sit down and rest after a week’s work of training. He pops in the Redbox DVD and sits down on the couch beside his lady. It’s finally time to kick back and relax. Then the phone buzzed.
As Moraga was preparing to pick up the remote and hit play, he received a text message from a close friend and teammate. Little did Moraga know that this simple text was about to change his life forever.
“I had just changed my phone number, so my coach had a teammate of mine text me,” said Moraga in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “The text message told me to call my coach and that it was extremely important. I knew something was going on because I never talk to my coach late at night.”
“I called him up and the first thing he said was, ‘You’re pulling out of your fight next week!’ I was scheduled to fight on Friday, July 20. I said, ‘Tell me I’m in the UFC’.”
After what seemed like an eternity, Moraga’s coach confirmed, “You’re in the UFC!”
One can begin to imagine the adrenaline running through Moraga’s veins. After winning 10 of his 11 professional bouts, his dream was coming true. He had finally arrived to the biggest stage known to mankind. He was finally going to be fighting inside the Octagon.
Moraga was all ears as his coach continued to speak.
“Listen, it’s not going to be easy. It’s in three weeks on the same card as Jamie [Varner]. You ready?,” his coach asked him. “You want to know who you’re going to fight?”
“I had a huge smile on my face,” admitted Moraga. “At this point, I didn’t care who it was.”
“I had walked into my bathroom at some point and asked, ‘Who is it?’ He responded and said, ‘Ian McCall.’ From that very moment, I was ready to go,” said the Phoenix native.
While Moraga was originally slated to meet McCall in a preliminary bout at UFC on Fox 4, “Uncle Creepy” was bounced from the card and replaced by fellow flyweight Ulysses Gomez. It didn’t matter to Moraga, his dream had already become a reality.
It was go time.
“I wasn’t too disappointed that I wasn’t getting a crack at McCall. I know I will probably fight him at some point later down the road,” said the 28-year-old. “I’m just thankful that the UFC found a replacement for me.”
“I finally made it to the UFC. The best way that I can describe my feelings is to simply say that I’m proud. For once in my life, I’m proud of myself for working so hard, staying focused, and getting past the struggles. The last time I felt something like that was when I won my state title in wrestling. This was different because I was older and already had a lot of responsibilities to keep up with. It was harder than anyone knows,” admitted Moraga. “I swallowed a lot of pride to get here.”
When Moraga takes the Octagon for the first time ever, he’ll be fighting in honor of his son. The same son who motivated him to pursue a career in MMA. The same son that inspires him each and every day.
“My son inspired me to start fighting. I knew I needed to get my life going in the right direction to provide the life that my son deserves to live. I chose MMA because I like to fight and a lot of my old Arizona State teammates had great success in their careers with it,” said Moraga.
“I’m beyond thankful for this opportunity. It’s one I’ll cherish forever.”
Top Photo: John Moraga (middle) with ACS teammates CB Dollaway (L) and Jamie Varner (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)