Renato Moicano has sights firmly on ex-champ Jose Aldo, but ‘I am the guy to beat Max Holloway’

When Renato Moicano was finally offered the fight he’d been asking for, against Jose Aldo, he thought he’d have another reason to celebrate. Moicano figured, like a lot of people, that the fight with the ex-champ would also come with his first UFC main event.

Moicano was “very happy” about that. But he was also wrong. In a decision that, according to UFC president Dana White, ultimately rested on Aldo’s will the featherweight bout will actually serve as the co-main event of Feb. 2’s UFC on ESPN+ 2 card at Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste Fortaleza, Brazil.

If there was ever any disappointment there, though, it seems Moicano got over it rather quickly.

“I think, either way, it’s going to be an excellent fight,” Moicano told MMAjunkie. “I wasn’t upset. Just the opportunity of fighting in Brazil, against Jose Aldo, it’s worth more than any main event.”

Moicano’s (13-1-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) admiration for Aldo (27-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) is a recurring theme in his interviews, and this one was no exception. At every turn, especially when the conversation veered into talks of a future that might involve a title shot, Moicano was quick to stress the sole focus of his attention.

“People have to remember that Aldo isn’t just any opponent,” Moicano said. “He’s a legend, a champion. He’s a guy whom I highly respect, a great opponent and I’m thinking only about beating him on Feb. 2. What happens later, happens later. Right now I’m focused, training like I’ve never trained before. Really dedicating myself for this opportunity.”

It’s not exactly uncommon to hear that a fighter is focused on their next fight. And given Moicano has never really been one to resent or talk any trash about his opponents, it’s not exactly surprising that he’s not going around speaking poorly of the ex-champ.

But Moicano’s recognition of Aldo doesn’t just come from a place of diplomacy. It also comes from the acknowledgement that he’s got a legitimately tough opponent and a great athlete – and not, despite what some may believe, a fighter who’s past his prime.

“I’m preparing for the best possible Aldo,” Moicano said. “On the fight against (Jeremy) Stephens, I thought he was looking good … I think he still has a lot of power in his strikes, he’s very much alive in the fight. So, really, I’m prepared for a war.”

Of course, going into the aforementioned devastating second-round knockout of Stephens at UFC on FOX 30, Aldo wasn’t exactly living his best moment. He was in fact riding his first career skid, after back-to-back TKO losses to current champ Max Holloway.

The way Moicano sees it, though, those losses are less indicative of Aldo’s decay than they are of Holloway’s own skills. Hence, what the current champ would go on to do almost one year later, against the then-undefeated Brian Ortega at UFC 231.

“What seems to be is that Holloway is a guy who’s way up there,” Moicano said. “With the performance over Ortega, it’s undeniable that the only guy who beat Jose Aldo, outside of (Conor) McGregor, is a guy who’s soaring, with impressive performances. We saw many people praising his display over Ortega. I was there and it was a beatdown. Against a guy who everyone knows is tough, who knocked out Frankie Edgar and who was coming off several wins. And Max Holloway really dominated him.”

It’s been established that Moicano’s main concern at this point is on the present. But while we’re on the subject of Holloway, the 29-year-old doesn’t mind discussing possibilities for the not-so-distant future.

“I think that (Aldo) being contender No. 2, and myself being contender No. 4, whomever wins will be right there for a title shot,” Moicano said. “Not to mention, the No. 1 just lost. So that’s it.

“This fight, I am sure that it will determine who will fight for the belt and I’m sure it will be me.”

Moicano is riding a two-fight winning streak, including a first-round submission over Cub Swanson last August. His sole loss was brought upon by Ortega, in the third round of a UFC 214 bout that Moicano had arguably been winning, after a decision win over Stephens.

For their part, the UFC seems to agree that the Brazilian is title-ready; after all, they had him serve as a back-up fighter for UFC 231’s title bout after his original opponent, Mirsad Bektic, had to pull out.

A lot of those developments boil down to timing, and Moicano knows that the fate of the 145-pound belt is somewhat unclear amid speculation of Holloway taking a stab at lightweight. But, as far as credentialing himself goes, he believes that adding a former champion to his 13-1 record would do the trick.

If he’s right, that would mean going up against a man whom Moicano just saw add a jaw-dropping 13th win to his streak. So what can Moicano offer that all those men – including the two challengers he holds in such high regard – couldn’t?

“I am the guy to beat Max Holloway,” Moicano said. “I have the same physical characteristics as him, from range to even the way he controls the distance. Max Holloway is someone who controls the distance well, but he’s been fighting smaller guys. He has been doing an excellent game? Yes. He’s the champion. He’s the man.

“But I’m 100 percent certain that I will be the hardest fight for him in the division and I that have very good chances of winning against him. For the fact that I also have the grappling – he doesn’t use jiu-jitsu a lot, he’s been submitted before. And I am certain that I can do an excellent fight.”

Before he deals with the Holloway problem, Moicano has a more urgent – and, the way he sees it, fundamentally different – one just next month. Whether he’ll be able to solve it or not, we’ll see. But one thing is for sure: It wasn’t for lack of studying.

“It’s a fight that I, like it or not, have prepared for my whole life,” Moicano said. “When I started MMA, before I even started it, Aldo was already the champion. And I always wanted to be a champion. So I remember people saying, ‘Oh, you’re fighting MMA, but which division?’ and I said, ‘In Aldo’s division.’ I already knew it. And I wanted it. I always wanted to fight the best.

“For me, this has been the fulfillment of a dream, really, being at the same level as Aldo. I am certain that I will get there on Feb. 2 very well-prepared and I will give it my best. I know I’m a very good athlete, too. I know I have what it takes to beat him. And that’s what you can expect there: A very well-prepared Renato Moicano, looking for the win from start to finish.”

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