Adriano Moraes may have been abandoned on the streets of Brasilia as a newborn, but the ONE Flyweight World Champion still calls the city home.
He was rescued from the streets and put into an orphanage, where he was eventually rescued by his adopted mother, who raised him in Brazil’s capital.
It’s also the place where he found martial arts, as part of Constrictor Team, where he honed the skills that eventually took him all the way to a ONE World Championship.
But despite his love for Brasilia, after losing his title to Kairat Akhmetov in 2015, Moraes decided to try his luck elsewhere.
“The Constrictor Team is the best gym in Brazil,” he explains.
“I just needed to move, because I had other problems outside the gym.”
There were no issues with the quality of his training. Instead, he had to deal with distractions from his friends away from the gym, as well as the general economic issues of life in Brazil at the time.
Those factors, coupled with a desire to broaden his horizons, led to a move to the United States.
“I had the opportunity to move to Florida, and I liked that,” he says.
“I liked joining the American Top Team family. Everyone received me very well, and I just enjoyed the opportunity. It is a gym I have known about since I was a kid.”
He joined the Coconut Creek-based team in early 2016 and dived into the world-class training at ATT, working alongside some of the best combat sports athletes in the world.
But despite seeing his ever-developing skillset improve by leaps and bounds, the lure of home kept nagging away at Moraes.
“I miss my mum so much,” he admits.
“She deserves the best things, and she is my hero.”
“I miss some friends and some places, like beautiful waterfalls with good energy that I used to go to. I love the energy of my Brazilian friends and Brazilian fans. I miss the positive energy from Brazil.
“In Brazil, the training is very good and very tough. I am a black belt under Ataíde Junior, and I had good teammates over there.”
Despite his homesickness, Moraes stuck at his task in Florida, and soon became relaxed and happy in his new surroundings.
“The weather here is good – it is like Brazil – and I have good teammates here, champions from around the world – Russian guys, Japanese guys, American guys, and a lot of Brazilian guys,” he says.
“The lighter-weight guys here are tough. Everything is helping me to be a world champion. God is really good to me.”
A glance at Moraes’ recent performances backs up his decision to move to the US. He’s currently riding a four-bout win streak, including a rematch victory over Akhmetov that saw him reclaim the ONE Flyweight World Title.
He then defended his belt with an impressive first-round submission win over promising young star Danny “The King” Kingad.
But as well as the improvements fans have seen inside the cage, Moraes says his move to America also improved him as a man.
“You learn to live alone, you learn to fight alone. You learn to see your life through different eyes,” he explains.
“I have so many opportunities and more responsibilities – now I am a husband and I am living with my wife. ‘Mikinho’ has grown up!
“Today, I feel like it is one of the best things I ever did.”
That’s not to say he’s cut ties with his home in Brazil. Far from it, in fact. He has booked his return to Brasilia after his upcoming title unification bout against Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, which takes place on Saturday, 23 June in Macau.
“I like to go to Brazil after my fights to see my mum and help people over there,” he says.
“I go to see my mum, my friends, and my wife’s family. I like to do that and visit the waterfalls – we have a lot of beautiful waterfalls. I need to go there to feel the positive vibes.”
Those vibes will be even better if he is still holding the ONE Flyweight World Championship belt.