Marlon Moraes knows the UFC’s bantamweight division is filled with deserving contenders, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t stand at the top of the list.

“Sterling is there; Sandhagen is there, too,” Moraes told MMA Junkie. “Aldo is in the division. Frankie is coming to 135. I see all the tough guys in the division. Pedro Munhoz is a tough guy, too. There’s so many good guys. I see eight tough fights in the 135-pound division. We’ve just got to get the ball going. We’ve got to get the title on the line more times.”

Moraes had a shot at UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo this past June but came up short, suffering a third-round TKO loss. Moraes bounced back in December with a hotly contested decision win over Jose Aldo, though UFC president Dana White said he believed the former featherweight champ deserved the win and actually granted him a title shot on May 9.

Travel restrictions currently in place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic ruled Aldo out of that fight, and former champ Dominick Cruz was then awarded the fight, despite not fighting in more than three years.

Moraes said he had no problem with the call, though.

“To be honest with you, it bothered me less than seeing Aldo get a title shot because Dominick Cruz has a story in the division,” Moraes said. “Dominick Cruz won the belt, and he had so many problems with injuries. I’m a big fan of Dominick Cruz, too. I see him. I see the passion he has for the sport, and he just can’t get going. He just can’t stay healthy. He keeps getting hurt, and when you hear something like that, you can’t get mad, you know? I’m not mad at all, man.

“The guy deserves to fight. He’s one of the best ever to step into that octagon in the 135-pound division, and I heard Petr Yan couldn’t get a visa to fight. He was one of the options, too, so why not? Why not give it to Dominick Cruz? He’s such a big name. I think it’s good for the division to have him back, and hopefully he can stay healthy, but if he can’t stay healthy, man, give this guy one more opportunity. Let’s see what he can do.”

In the meantime, Moraes (23-6-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC), who sits at No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, agreed to fight the fast-rising Yan (14-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), who currently checks in at No. 4. The two were set to face off on June 13 in Kazakhstan, but that event will be given a new location.

Whether that takes place in the U.S. or on Dana White’s “Fight Island” remains to be seen, but Moraes said he still plans on fighting on June 13.

“I don’t care,” Moraes said. “I’m going to fight him. That’s the fight that I signed for, and wherever they want to make it happen, I’m going to fly there.”

On paper, the fight looks sure to please, with both fighters possessing dynamic striking skills. Moraes is the more seasoned of the two in terms of high-profile fights, but he said he’s definitely not looking past Yan.

“I think he’s a very good fighter,” Moraes said. “I think he’s one of the contenders right now in the UFC. Skill-wise, I think he’s good everywhere. He can fight everywhere, and he’s a good fight for me. It’s a fight that puts me back up there.

“I just had a fight. I fought for the title, I lost, and in my opinion, he should be next for the title. He didn’t get the title shot, and he needed an opponent, and I raised my hand. Let’s fight this guy. You know, you have to challenge yourself and fight with the best, and this is what I’m aiming to do. I think he’s one of the best out there. Nothing better to test yourself than guys of that caliber.”

A win would certainly go a long way toward Moraes’ case for another title shot. Contenders such as Frankie Edgar, Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling, among others, might disagree, but Moraes said he’s not worried about anyone else’s situation. He wants to face the best opponents available and prove his worth.

“I’m fighting a tough guy, a good opponent, but I know how tough I am, how good I am,” Moraes said. “Let’s clash. Let’s show. He deserves it and I deserve it. Let’s see who’s going to get it.”

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