Features

Adriano Moraes' Amazing Journey From Abandoned Orphan To Flyweight King

February 17, 2018

Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes (17-2) is focused on fulfilling his destiny, and continuing his endless pursuit of happiness and success.

“My destiny is to be a world champion,” the 29-year-old Brazilian states, but that is only part of his ambition. “My destiny is to be a role model for the kids. It is my destiny to be with my family and to keep moving forward with my life.

“If I can teach my classes and pass forward what I have learned through martial arts, I can show other people what you can do when you believe in yourself.”

There may not be another role model who is more inspiring than Moraes. After all, he persevered through the hardest of life’s circumstances to become the best flyweight in the world.

Abandoned As A Baby In Brazil

In April 1988, just days after he was born, his birth mother abandoned him on the streets of Brasilia, Brazil. Needless to say, it was a dangerous place to leave a newborn baby.

Fortunately, he was rescued from the streets and placed in an orphanage. Then, when he was 3 years old, he was able to leave the orphanage, and suddenly had a bright future ahead of him. He was adopted by a kind soul named Mirtes Moraes, who took care of him and treated him like her own flesh and blood.

“She means everything to me. She is my idol,” he says. “I did everything for her, and I continue to do everything for her, for this love.”

Growing up, Moraes was a spirited and lively kid who was full of energy – perhaps too much. To help curtail that, his mother enrolled him in activities including capoeira, judo, and even swimming. Still, he could not entirely escape the allure of the streets he was abandoned on. “Mikinho” spent his early teenage years there, where he got involved in youth gangs and engaged in street fights.

It was a chance encounter, however, that eventually gave him some much-needed direction in his life. That was when he lost a street fight, and decided to pick up Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

A whole new world was unlocked within Moraes. He left the streets to train at the well-established Constrictor Team under Erick Medeiros and Ataide Junior. The flyweight was dedicated to his craft, and picked up a slew of BJJ titles in the years to follow, culminating in a NAGA No-Gi Pro Division Championship in 2014. A year later, he received his black belt.

After achieving success in “the gentle art,” Moraes followed in several of his teammates’ footsteps, and tried his hand at the cage.

Global Success

The Brazilian made his professional cage debut in 2011, and over the next three years, he won 12 of his first 13 matches, and claimed a Brazilian championship along the way. He then reached the height of his career by defeating Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio in September 2014 to capture the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Championship.

“Martial arts changed my life for better,” he says. “It changed my mindset, changed everything in my life, and is very important to me. This is my work, this is my lifestyle, this is my job, and martial arts is everything to me. I love what I do.”

After a successful title defense in March 2015, “Mikinho” experienced his biggest setback when he lost the belt to then-undefeated Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov later that November via split decision. At the time, he felt terrible, and thought his dream was over.

However, Moraes is not the type of person who falters easily. He had already overcome plenty of obstacles in his life. If anything, he was presented with an opportunity to come back stronger than ever, and that is exactly what he did.

In early 2016, he relocated from Brazil to Florida, and started training full-time at American Top Team. With a change of scenery and a new coaching staff in place, he defeated knockout artist Eugene Toquero that March, and then submitted Tilek Batyrov via rear-naked choke later that August to snag the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship. At the time, Akhmetov was injured and out of action for two years.

The two were set on an inevitable collision course, and a title unification match was set for August 2017. That night in Macao at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS, Moraes proved to be the better man.

Moraes displayed solid takedown defense, dazzling grappling, and world-class striking that was simply crisper and more diverse than Akhmetov’s. The Brazilian regained his undisputed ONE Flyweight World Championship with a flawless unanimous decision victory over Kairat Akhmetov — the man who took his belt back in 2015 — and snapped the Kazakhstani’s 23-bout win streak.

Now, Moraes cannot help but reflect on his past. From being abandoned on the streets of Brasilia as a baby to reclaiming his world championship, he has survived in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and is a true role model for youths around the world. 

“My life story is going to show and teach every teenager and kid that when they do not know what to do when their dream is lost, that God has more light for you. God has one more chance for you.”

The Reigning And Defending Champion

Thus far, Moraes has made the most of his second chance.

The inspirational Brazilian quickly returned to action at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila, Philippines, this past November, and successfully defended his title against local favorite and then-undefeated contender Danny Kingad.

After catching one of Kingad’s wushu kicks, “Mikinho” brought his rival to the ground. When the Filipino tried to escape, Moraes expertly coiled around his body, cleverly set up the rear-naked choke, and forced the tap with 15 seconds left in the opening round.

“This night was amazing for me,” the flyweight world titleholder said, following his big win. “Danny, you have a big future, but now is my time.”

It certainly is Moraes’ time to shine right now. The Brazilian closed out 2017 on a high note, and is carrying that momentum with him into 2018.

However, he needs to continue putting in persistent hard work. That is what will keep him at the top, and his unrelenting work ethic is something that everybody in the world could stand to learn and benefit from.

“If you do great things in your life, not just when you become a champion, you will be a good example for kids and other people,” Moraes states. “For me, in my life, I always do my best every day. We work every day to stay at a high level.”