By TXMMA Staff // Calvin Balch
Former high school wrestler, street fighter, and Houston MMA villain to make Legacy FC pro debut
Thomas Moreno is a polarizing figure in the Houston MMA community. Whether they love or hate him, just about anyone who has been around the scene has heard of him. The former backyard fighter turned professional MMA competitor makes his sanctioned debut on September 16th for Legacy FC as he takes on Houston sports personality AJ Hoffman in a heavyweight match. Moreno was gracious enough to provide an interview prior to his fight, for which TXMMA is grateful.
TXMMA: Thank you for taking time out for an interview Thomas. For the people who aren’t familiar with you, can you give us an introduction?
Moreno: I’m Thomas Moreno. I’ve been known to the Houston MMA community for the last couple of years as the man behind Clarence Brown. I am one of his mentors and his manager.
TXMMA: How did you and Clarence come together and get involved in the sport?
Moreno: We met via social media through Facebook. I noticed his page was full of MMA related events and I related to his love for MMA. We started messaging and talking about potentially doing backyard fighting together against a variety of opponents. On June 2, 2012, the day we both graduated from high school, we started a backyard fighting club named Prodigy Fight Productions.
TXMMA: Tell us about Prodigy Fights. How long did it last and what were some memorable moments:
Moreno: Memorable Moments? The day I met Clarence, he went up against one of my best friends John Alejos. John was 250 at the time and Clarence was 145. Clarence choked out John via rear naked choke in the second round. I could tell by the way Clarence fought and the look on his face that he would be a star inside the cage one day. When I had my first backyard match a week later, it was against someone who was 230 and I was around 185. I finished him by submission in the first round. Our first backyard fights were our most memorable fights, but we both have several fights over the span of 2-3 years.
TXMMA: Did you ever take on Clarence? If so, how did that go?
Moreno: Me and Clarence never fought officially in a backyard match, but we have squared up against each other many times outside and inside of a gym. It’s usually always pretty much even. He’s more athletic than me MMA wise, but my wrestling and size always makes things fun.
TXMMA: How long did you wrestle, and do you consider yourself more of a striker or grappler?
Moreno: I wrestled for two years at Davis High School, now known as Northside High School. I consider myself a smart striker and a strong grappler. If I had to choose one that I was more of, I would say a striker.
TXMMA: You’re fighting AJ Hoffman in Legacy. How did this fight come about and what advantages do you have in the match?
Moreno: I asked Collin Cantrell for the match against AJ Hoffman. AJ is very well known in the Houston MMA scene. He is also an ESPN radio personality. I wanted my professional MMA debut to be against someone who has star power. I saw his last amateur fight against Danny Bennett and even thought AJ lost, it took guts to get inside the cage with someone that strong. Advantages that I have? I don’t know if he thinks I am taking this seriously enough, but I am. In several posts, I have said win lose or draw, mentally you have to be strong. I am ready to win and ready if I lose. I have a mental advantage because I’m taking this fight as a nothing to lose and everything to gain type of fight. Also, I am a smart fighter. Our fight will be like a game of chess. I will make few mistakes. I’m extremely confident going into this fight.
TXMMA: The majority of Houston MMA has dismissed you as a fighter and said some pretty nasty things about you leading up to this fight. Why do the locals come down on you so hard?
Moreno: I am blessed by God, Collin Cantrell and Mick Maynard for this opportunity. People will always have something to say. It’s a part of the fight game and the circle of life. Some, if not most locals, have come down hard on me over the years because, remember, I am Clarence Brown’s manager. It’s not easy managing Clarence, but it is an honor. Some locals also don’t like the fact that I was an undefeated backyard fighter. They considered me a fake fighter. I was just an undefeated backyard fighter. That’s all.
TXMMA: You’re known as a competent sports gambler. You and Clarence are on the same card. Can you give odds on a win in your respective fights?
Moreno: I am a huge underdog in the fight. I would say I’m +900, AJ being the favorite of course. Clarence book wise would be an underdog because of his amateur record, but my money would be on him because Clarence is the type of fighter that can beat anyone he is fighting against if he applies himself correctly.
TXMMA: Is this one and done or do you see a future in the sport? The Legacy heavyweight division could use new blood. Does a win over AJ put you anywhere near a title shot in a somewhat thin division or what would that take?
Moreno: If I win, I’m sure Legacy would definitely want me back. Maybe the UFC might take a peek. I would be like a real life Here Comes The Boom Scott Voss kind of story in a way. If I lose, I would like to do a couple of more fights and definitely would love to fight for Legacy again. Or even Fury, that’s another great promotion. A win over AJ I believe, and maybe you can agree with me, would be one of if not the biggest upset in the history of MMA. If I win, I wouldn’t say I deserve a title shot for Legacy, but would definitely take a title fight if the opportunity presented itself.
TXMMA: You’re an outspoken fan of the underdog role and Phil Brooks. What we’ve seen so far of his opponent, Mickey Gall, has been impressive in a win over Houston based MMA personality Mike Jackson. What was your analysis of that fight and can the man known AS CM Punk actually win?
Moreno: I absolutely love Phil “CM PUNK” Brooks. Mickey Gall is a tough kid. I wasn’t surprised at all that he beat Mike Jackson. I was a little surprised that he knocked down Mike early the way he did. Whether I like Mike Jackson or not, Mike is a good striker with boxing fundamentals. Mickey won because he wanted it more. Mike wasn’t guaranteed Punk if he won so I think that took away a little motivation from Mike. I believe CM Punk will win against Mickey Gall because of two main reasons. Where CM Punk has been training and he is used to the bright lights. He will have nerves going into the fight, but I think he will feel great once they get it on inside the cage.
TXMMA: Wrapping up, you have dedicated this fight to the family of Josue Flores and have done a lot of work in the community since that tragedy, which I commend you on. Aside from that, is there anyone you want to thank or mention?
Moreno: I’m dedicating this fight in the honor of Josue Flores and his family and any other family that has suffered the loss of a young one. I am also dedicating this fight to anyone what has ever been bullied. I used to get bullied back in my younger years of school. It can be tough, but I overcame it by standing up for myself. I have come a long way for someone who went through that. I want to thank my daughter Penelope Ann Moreno for being the best blessing ever and always putting a smile on my face. I want to thank my whole family, especially my girlfriend Klarissa Lopez. It’s so cool having a girlfriend who is an MMA fan. Of course I have to thank my boy Clarence Brown for accepting me and giving me the pleasure of being by his side. I want to thank my friends and my community of fellow Northsiders. And finally, of course, everyone that helped make this fight come to fruition. Those people would be Collin, Cantrell, Mick Maynard, the great state of Texas, and AJ Hoffman and his camp. I even want to thank you for giving me this opportunity for an interview.