Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes (15-2) is focused on manifesting his destiny.
On Saturday, 5 August, the interim titleholder will get the chance to secure his status as the undisputed kingpin of the flyweight division. He will meet the last man to defeat him, ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov (23-0), in a title unification match at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS, live from the Cotai Arena in Macao.
“My destiny is to be a 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 here and keep going with my life.
“If I can teach my classes and pass forward what I have learned in mixed 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 one of the best flyweights in the world.
In April 1988, just days after he was born, his birth mother abandoned him on the streets of Rio De Janeiro. 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 lady 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 fights.
It was an unfortunate encounter on those streets, 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 with the 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 mixed martial arts.
The Brazilian made his professional debut in 2011, and over the next three years, he won 12 of his first 13 matches, and even won a Brazilian championship title. He then reached the pinnacle of his career by defeating Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio in September 2014 to capture the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Championship.
“Mixed 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 mixed martial arts is everything to me. I love what I do.”
After a successful title defense in March 2015, “Mikinho” experienced a setback when he lost the belt to Akhmetov later that November via split decision. At the time, he felt terrible, and admittedly thought his dream was over.
However, Moraes is not the type of person who falters easily. He has 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 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 interim ONE Flyweight World Championship. At the time, Akhmetov was injured and out of action for two years.
Now, as Moraes prepares for his title unification match against Akhmetov, he cannot help but to reflect on his past. From being abandoned on the streets of Rio De Janeiro as a baby to becoming a world champion in Asia’s premier organization, Moraes has survived in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and is a true role model for other youngsters who feel directionless.
“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.”