Maryna Moroz could finally exhale.
Two years after her previous fight in March of 2020, Moroz was able to stand in the UFC Octagon, defeat a bitter rival in Mariya Agapova, and raise her hands in victory not just for herself, but for her native country of Ukraine.
It was an emotional night at T-Mobile Arena in March, but now, she could move forward. Yes, the war is still going on back home, and that will never leave her mind, but she can now focus on a fresh start to her career as a UFC flyweight.
“My family's okay, but still, the situation is bad in Ukraine,” said Moroz before her Saturday bout with Jennifer Maia. “I hope it will finish soon.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Moroz was finally in a fight camp that was going to result in a fight after many starts and stops due to injuries and visa issues. But it was hard to keep her mind on Agapova, knowing that her family was in the midst of a war.
“When the war started it was a little bit hard,” she said. “I was nervous, it was hard to train and focus. But time made me strong and I started to get more focused.”
And on fight night, Moroz looked better than ever as she submitted Agapova in the second round to extend her current winning streak to three. Add in a Performance of the Night bonus and it was an even better return for the “Iron Lady,” who also received good news a couple months later when she received her green card.
“Maybe two years ago I started making the documents for the green card and I was nervous that I wouldn't get it,” she said. “But I got it and now I live in America. I'm still worried about family, but they're safe and I try to help them as much as I can.”
That worry won’t go away as long as the war continues, but Moroz, who lives and trains in South Florida, is now able to focus on her career and not layoffs that were no fault of her own.
“I'm focused now on fighting and my career,” she said. “My husband is always together with me, helping me. If I lived alone, I don't know, it would be so hard. But my husband is everything. He supports me, cooks for me, helps me train, drives, so I have big support. And in the gym, of course, I have friends that have supported me and helped me train. It's good.”
The American Top Team squad has become a second family to Moroz, yet as she explains with a laugh, sometimes she needs to be kicked out of the house for training too much.
“People on Instagram see another part of my life. I always post something sexy or something on the beach, but it's not real. My reality is that I work hard and train two, three times a day, sometimes four times. Run, train, conditioning, jiu-jitsu, boxing. My coaches are like, ‘Stop, go home, rest.’”
The gym is Moroz’ place of peace, yet she has tried to stay busy in other aspects of her life, as well, with some modeling for Playboy putting her in the history books as the first UFC fighter to appear in those iconic (digital) pages. The reaction has been generally positive, but there are always those anonymous folks who try to spoil the party.
“Of course, my friends tell me, ‘Congratulations, it's super cool,’” said Moroz. “But many people are very aggressive. ‘You need to stop fighting,’ and it's very bad. But I always say I'm immune to it now. For me, it doesn't matter what people tell me. I always listen to my husband, my family, very close friends, coaches, people I respect. The other people, I don't know. Okay, you told me something, and two minutes later, I forget it and enjoy my life. And sometimes if it's very bad, okay, block, goodbye. (Laughs) I try to enjoy life because time moves very fast.”
It does, but at least now, Moroz has a chance to enjoy the view.
“I focus on being strong,” she said. “It doesn't matter what happened in the past. I have a good camp right now, I'm healthy, I'm ready for the fight. This fight, it's time for me to show my level. If I start to think about the past, I stop. 'Maryna, don't think about this. You're strong, you're focused and you'll win.' Always in my head I try to be strong and not think about what happened because if I think about it, it will take my energy and I'll be nervous.”
Nervous? Not this Iron Lady.
“I think it's my time,” Moroz said. “Jennifer is a very strong opponent and she's had many good fights. She puts on a lot of pressure, but many people don't know me. I've trained a long time with American Top Team and I've changed everything in my life. I'm older, I'm strong and I have a lot of motivation and a lot of dreams.”
One of those dreams is to take to the open road in her adopted home country, a vacation she’s earned.
“I don't have time for travel, but one day I will have time to sit in the car with my husband, with my cats, and drive the roads in America and enjoy beautiful places.”
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