Moras back in action after lengthy layoff

When Canadian bantamweight Sarah (Cheesecake) Moras steps into the cage Saturday night at UFC 215, it will be 785 days since her last fight.

Injuries have sidelined the 29-year-old from Kelowna, B.C. And in a sport where you don’t get paid unless you fight, Moras (4-3-0) has had to be resourceful to make ends meet.

She returned to her job with Canada Post. And in advance of her matchup with No. 15 contender Ashlee (Rebel Girl) Evans-Smith (5-2-0), she started a gofundme campaign with a goal to raise $10,000 for her training camp.

As of Thursday, Moras had raised almost $5,000. It’s money she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“It’s definitely helpful,” Moras said in an interview. “A big stress about fight camps is financial so it’s really nice that I have that support.”

But it’s something Moras, whose last UFC fight paycheque was listed at just US$10,000, was reluctant to do.

“I hate asking for money. I hate the whole idea of it,” she said. “I’d really rather not do something like that. But it’s what I needed to do this time, unfortunately.”

Grateful for the support, she is donating her last fight gear in a donor draw.

In the main event Saturday at Edmonton’s Rogers Place, flyweight champion Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson looks to defend his title for a record 11th straight time against No. 3 contender Ray (The Tazmexican Devil) Borg. In the co-main event, bantamweight champion Amanda (The Lioness) Nunes faces No. 1 contender Valentina (Bullet) Shevchenko in a rematch of the UFC 196 non-title fight won by Nunes.

Moras, a graduate of Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” is one of five Canadians on the undercard. The others are featherweight Gavin (The Newfoundland Terror) Tucker, lightweights Mitch (Danger Zone) Clarke and (Ragin’) Kajan Johnson and heavyweight newcomer Arjan Singh Bhullar.

Moras’ last outing was a July 2015 decision loss to Jessica Andrade, a hard-nosed Brazilian who is currently ranked No. 4 among 115-pounders and recently lost to strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

A hand injury was the first of several flies in the ointment, keeping Moras on the sidelines. Bills began to mount, especially when the hand forced her to back out of a February 2016 fight in Pittsburgh with Lauren Murphy after a costly training camp.

She returned to work at Canada Post, piling up the hours to pay off credit card debts and prepare for the next camp. But fighting essentially was put on hold.

“I couldn’t really grip anything, I couldn’t make a fist. So I was a little stuck,” she said.

When she was healthy enough to return to training, she suffered a badly broken nose that required surgery.

Restored to full health, Moras says she has improved every aspect of her game.

“People aren’t going to expect what I’ve got, so I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

A visit to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas — using money from the gofundme account — provided extra help on nutrition and strength and conditioning, as well as time with physios.

“I’ve been listening to my body a lot more this camp,” she said. “And I’ve been getting advice from a bunch of people and just listening to them and picking what i want to do and what works for me. It’s really been a great camp.”

It helps that fiance Cleve Bentley is also a fighter.

Moras is bullish on the matchup with Evans-Smith, confident that she can hold her own against the former collegiate wrestler. Moras put her ground skills to good use in her first UFC fight, a win over Alexis Dufresne in July 2014.

Moras has worked close to three years on call at Canada Post, usually starting at 5 a.m. — sorting and then delivering mail. When she clocks out, it’s off to the gym to train until 7 or 8 p.m. She goes to bed around 9:30, getting up at 4 a.m. to repeat the day.

“It’s tiring,” she acknowledged.

It was more tiring when she used to live in Chilliwack, driving three hours each way to train at Toshido Mixed Martial Arts, which she still calls home. Under trainer David Lea, Toshido has produced the likes of Rory MacDonald, Shane Campbell and Matt Dwyer.

Now living in Kelowna, she has spent the last seven years at Toshido.

Saturday’s fight will be family reunion of sorts, given her little sister lives in Edmonton. “An added bonus that I get to go there.”

Moras’ Cheesecake nickname came after a friend dared her to come out to her first pro fight to the song “Cheesecake” by The Muppets. The name stuck.

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