“My last fight with Marlon Moraes went smooth,” said Rob Font in the understatement of the year thus far.
The bantamweight contender from Woburn, Massachusetts conveniently leaves out that the December 2020 knockout of the former world title challenger came after a yearlong layoff due to injury, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with everything potentially going up in smoke should he lose such a high-profile bout.
But yeah, “smooth” is kind of accurate.
“I got taken down in the first round, I got into a couple scrambles with him, got back up top, landed a combination, we rocked him, finally hurt him really bad, put him down and finished the fight,” said Font, who nonetheless breathed a sigh of relief after extending his win streak to three and setting himself for a Saturday main event against former world champion Cody Garbrandt.
“Getting that win was huge, man,” said Font. “It was probably the biggest win of my career. It was a year layoff for me, I had ACL surgery, so I couldn’t have pictured it going any other way. After the fight, emotions took over me. It was a long time not fighting, I wasn’t sure where I was at in the division, had a huge opportunity, a big, scary name like Marlon, so it was a scary fight.”
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Every fight is scary at this level of mixed martial arts and it has nothing to do with the prospect of someone trying to punch, kick or choke you. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts of the action inside the Octagon and into the end result. A win moves a fighter one step closer to a title, while every loss usually means a tumble down the ladder. Font has been on both sides of the equation, and while he’s scored big wins over the years, most notably over the likes of Thomas Almeida, Ricky Simon, and Matt Schnell, when he took big steps up in competition, he fell short.
“I had three big tests before,” Font said. “I got the opportunity to fight John Lineker, Pedro Munhoz and Raphael Assuncao, and we lost all three of those fights. So this (the Moraes fight) was another big name, a scary fight that I had to win. And we finally put it all together.”
Font did just that, proving that when the lights are at their brightest, he can perform, and while the technical aspects of his game have been sharpened since that last loss to Assuncao nearly three years ago, it’s his approach to the big fights that has changed.
“I think I took it too serious,” he said. “I was overthinking it and I wasn’t just out there having fun. It was more of trying to be perfect and not pulling the trigger or overthinking what could happen if I win one of these big fights. I need to have fun and fight.”
That he was able to do that against Moraes after a year away was remarkable. But the 33-year-old went through his tough times while rehabbing his knee, and once he got the green light to get back to work, those negative feelings went away.
“It was rough, probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while, but it was one of those things where I tried to make the best of it,” he said. “It was definitely hard watching everybody fight, knowing I could beat these guys, and seeing the division move on and I’m sitting here stuck with my leg up.”
As for taking a tune-up fight upon his return, Font asks, “Who’s an easy fight in the UFC?”
Good point, especially when it’s the bantamweight division being discussed. And in the 135-pound Top 5, where Font holds the number three spot, every fight is the biggest yet, and every win could mean a crack at the belt held by Aljamain Sterling.
“This is big,” Font said. “But I feel like I’m ready for this. This puts me one step closer to that belt. He (Garbrandt) is an ex-champion, a huge name. If I go out there and put a stamp on this guy, you can’t deny me that belt.”
That’s pressure. But remember, “Smooth” Rob Font thinks a lot differently about that topic these days.
“I’m just looking to go out there, have fun, and put this guy away,” he said. “I don’t want to prove anything; I know I’m legit. I’m just gonna go out there and show everybody else that I’m here and I’m the future champ.”