San Diego-Tijuana border helped shape first Mexico-born UFC champ

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TIJUANA (Border Report) — Brandon Moreno was not expecting the mariachi band, the roasted pig or the large reception he got Monday evening at the gym where he trains in Tijuana.

His family and friends gathered to celebrate Moreno becoming the first Mexico-born fighter to become an Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder.

Last Saturday Moreno defeated Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil in a flyweight championship bout held in the Phoenix area.

Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil fights Brandon Moreno of Mexico during their UFC 263 flyweight championship match at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

“A lot of sacrifice but at the end of the day I’m the champion, champion of the world,” Moreno said in perfect English.

Moreno was referring to his fall from UFC grace after several lackluster fights when he was released from his contract in 2018.

A year later, the 28-year-old Moreno was given an opportunity to redeem himself, performing very well in several fights, earning a shot at the title and indirectly an opportunity to be the guest of honor at Monday’s reception.

“It’s an amazing moment, here all the people, my team celebrating, the mariachis, it’s impressive and awesome,” said Moreno. “It’s a dream come true, 10 years fighting as a professional and 15 years doing the sport.”

Brandon Moreno of Mexico celebrates after defeating Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil to win the flyweight championship during their UFC 263 match at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

The title victory has made Moreno an instant legend in his hometown, although he credits his success to lessons learned, not only in Tijuana, but north of the border after countless commutes between Mexico and the United States.

“It made me who I am today, I was blessed to be able to migrate legally to the United States.”

Moreno is already the subject of a new song written just for him. And in the neighborhood where his parents still live, an artist painted a mural beneath a bridge that shows Moreno with the UFC title belt slung over his left shoulder and his right fist in the air.

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