If that proves to be the case, don’t expect Pantoja to be overly complimentary toward the new UFC flyweight champion. Pantoja’s first words when asked backstage about Moreno’s UFC 283 co-main event title unification TKO of Deiveson Figueiredo were: “I’m not impressed.”
Pantoja, who was cageside for the fight, told the UFC’s Megan Olivi in a backstage interview on the ESPN+ post-fight show from Rio de Janeiro he thinks he should get the next title shot.
“Moreno’s good, but I (beat) him two times and I’m ready for the next,” Pantoja said. “I want to call him (out): I’m fighting with you, whatever place you want – if you want to go to Mexico, or whatever the place. I think that fight makes sense now.”
Pantoja (25-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) has history with Moreno (21-6-2 MMA, 9-3-2 UFC), whose win over Figueiredo (21-3-1 MMA, 10-3-1 UFC) gave him a 2-1-1 lead in their rivalry. Pantoja submitted Moreno on Season 24 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Then in the UFC, he beat him with a unanimous decision and got a pair of 30-26 scores.
“I (beat) him two times,” Pantoja said. “The first one, I finished him (on ‘TUF 24’). The second, I (had two 30-26 scores). He’s a tough kid, but every time he’s seen my eyes, I see he’s afraid. I know that’s exactly what will happen when I fight him again. I’ll finish this guy.”
The UFC captured video Saturday backstage of Pantoja congratulating Moreno for his title win and asking when he would be ready to fight him.
Although the interaction was pleasant and featured multiple bro-hugs, it may have started to turn awkward at the end when Pantoja didn’t seem to let up about wanting to know when they could fight for Moreno’s new belt.
“He was very friendly with me, to be honest, and everything to start,” Moreno told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at a post-fight news conference. “He came with me and he said, ‘Hey man, today I feel so happy for you. Congrats for the belt’ or whatever. At that point, everything was fine. There, he started to ask me like, ‘Hey, when is our fight? In two months? In three months? Tell me right now.’
“Like, I don’t know, to be honest. Then he started to look a little bit aggressive, to be honest. My only point was, ‘Let me enjoy today, man. Just give me today. Just let me have this moment with my friends, with my training partners, with my wife, with my manager. Then, we can make another circus on social media with trash talk, if you want. But just give me this moment.’ That was my only point.”
For what it’s worth, Moreno also said he agrees with Pantoja that Pantoja should be next in the title queue.
Pantoja has won three straight, including back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses.
“I think for sure Pantoja should fight next for the title,” Moreno said. “(Matheus) Nicolau is doing an amazing job right now, too, (and) Manel Kape. I think those three guys are the next ones. At the end, I don’t do the decisions. I’m just ready to fight and I’ll be ready for the guy the UFC puts in front.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 283.