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- Brazilian martial artist
Marlon Moraes decided Thailand’s famed Tiger Muay Thai would be the perfect place to start training for his March 12 clash with Song Yadong.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian bantamweight, his arrival into the country didn’t go exactly as expected.
“At this point in my career, I decided to come here, start a strong camp, you know, get a couple of weeks in Thailand away from my family, training hard,” Moraes told MMA Junkie. “But man, everything went crazy because I arrived here last Monday, and when you arrive in Thailand, you have to test for COVID right away. I tested, and they called my room and they said, ‘Hey, I think your test is inconclusive, so wait.’ At night, they said, ‘Hey, you’re positive. We’ve got to transfer you to a hospital.’
“I mean, I couldn’t understand well what they were saying because the hotel where I was, they didn’t speak much English. Man, I couldn’t even order food. It was rough, but man, I was almost out. I was almost going to train, you know, so no problem. But then came an ambulance, and bro, they threw me in the ambulance, and this guy starts driving like crazy, and I’m completely lost because I didn’t know where I was going. I just know I’m positive, and I’m in the ambulance, and I don’t know where he’s taking me.”
The reality of Moraes’ whirlwind arrival to Thailand was soon evident when he was shown his new temporary residence, from which he would be asked to not leave. The 33-year-old thought for sure there must be some misunderstanding. After all, “Magic” said he is vaccinated against COVID-19, and he’d already had a previous bout with coronavirus, as well. He also took precautionary measures during his trip over from the U.S., respecting the airlines’ mask mandate and bringing some personal sanitizer in his bag, as well.
But while he waited in the hospital, he felt symptoms setting in.
“It’s different than a normal hospital because this place, you have to stay in this small room forever,” Moraes said during the final day of his 11-day order. “You can’t leave the room. You can’t go anywhere. You get three meals a day: one at 8 a.m., one at noon, and one at 5 p.m.
“Finally, after a few days, I started to get a little sick. I started to have fever and body pain – a lot of pain on my back.”
‘It was crazy, crazy, crazy’
Having dealt with COVID before, Moraes knew the importance of hydration, as well as ensuring his diet was as clean as possible. Not wanting to worry his family back home in Florida, he didn’t necessarily communicate all the details of his situation to his wife and children. He did reach out to Tiger Muay Thai’s John Hutchinson, who happily worked to help Moraes get everything he needed while still in isolation.
“You’ve got to eat clean,” Moraes said. “You’ve got to drink a lot of water, electrolytes, and I wasn’t doing any of that, so I started to get worried because now I have a fight in eight weeks, and I wasn’t training properly and I wasn’t getting better. Finally, I got to talk with the doctor.
“I got in touch with the right people. They started to order food for me. I got IVs, and I started to feel better. Finally, I started to recover after the fourth day, you know? But it was crazy, crazy, crazy.”
Moraes (23-9-1 MMA, 5-5 UFC) spoke to MMA Junkie on Friday, just hours before he was set to be released from the hospital. For now, he still intends on honoring the bout agreement he signed to face Yadong (18-5-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) at a UFC Fight Night event on March 12, which is expected to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
That said, he does plan to put himself through the paces at Tiger Muay Thai and ensure he’s made a full recovery before he can make a complete commitment.
“Man, I’ve never pulled out of fight,” Moraes said. “I don’t want to pull out of this fight, but I want to see how I feel. I want to get my body hard training and see how I feel, you know, because this is a very important fight, and I want to get in there, and I want to perform, and I want to finish this guy and prove to everyone that I’m still UFC level.”
Moraes, a former WSOF champ, is still ranked No. 8 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, but he currently is mired in a three-fight losing skid and knows it’s imperative he perform well in March. Perhaps ironically, it was that commitment to maximizing his performance that led to perhaps an even bigger challenge.
“I know this is a tough fight, a very important fight for me, and I want to really get prepared well because I know this is it,” Moraes said. “I’m having this opportunity with the UFC, another one, and I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to see where I still am and if I’m still at this level because I want to fight guys at this level, and I want to beat guys. You know, I’m not in the UFC just to be another one on the roster.”
For now, Moraes thinks he’ll still compete, and the typically jovial contender was excited about ending his quarantine. With the finish line in sight, Moraes could look back and laugh up the previous stretch.
“It was funny because the first couple of days, I couldn’t find one channel on the TV. But there’s a bunch of people here in this hospital, and one smart guy, he thought about creating a group with all the people that are in our floor. So everyone was talking to each other on WhatsApp after a couple days,” Moraes said. “They told me that there’s one English channel, and I have this one channel with movies, so I tried to watch movies. I tried to read a lot, you know, and I tried to keep my my mind up by watching a lot of fights, writing down things.
“It’s crazy. I couldn’t really train. I could not do anything. There’s not much room for training, you know? So for a couple of days I have been doing pushups. That’s it.”
‘It was for something’
With the worst of it seemingly behind, Moraes finally shared the full details of his journey with his wife back home, and he thanked her for giving him strength. While Moraes generally is considered one of the most positive fighters aroundn, he said this incident tested even his resolve.
“I was still thinking about not letting my wife worry,” Moraes said. “She’s home with our kids. You know, it’s kind of hard. But after a couple of days, we are all staying positive. She’s talking with me all the time, keeping me positive because first they told me I was going to leave after seven days. Then, ‘No, it will be more. You’ve got to stay 11 days.’ She still was on my side, like, telling me, ‘Stay strong. Never, ever, has it been easy for us. We always had to fight through, and I believe this is going to make you stronger, and things happen for a reason.’
“It’s hard, and it’s hard to believe that everything does happen for a reason, but I’m still here, and what I’m going to do? It’s been a crazy test, a crazy 11 days, but going through this, it was for something. Let’s believe that.”