Canadian bantamweight Sarah (Cheesecake) Moras felt instantly at home in Abu Dhabi when she found a Cheesecake Factory.
The 31-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., who trains out of Las Vegas, hopes to indulge in her favourite treat after a win over Georgia’s Liana Jojua (7-2-0) on the undercard of UFC 242 on Saturday.
"I wasn’t expecting it but having a Cheesecake Factory is pretty sweet. So I might hit that up after I weigh in or after the fight," Moras said with a giggle from Abu Dhabi. "I think I kind of have to."
Saturday’s main event pits lightweight title-holder Khabib (The Eagle) Nurmagomedov (27-0-0) of Russia against interim champion Dustin (The Diamond) Poirier (25-5-0) of the U.S.
Moras (5-5-0) is the lone Canadian on the card at The Arena, Yas Island — the UFC’s third trip to the United Arab Emirates capital — although French-born middlweight Nordine Taleb, who trains in Montreal, takes on Russian Muslim Salikhov.
The Moras-Jojua fight will mark the UFC’s first women’s bout in Abu Dhabi. Jojua, a 24-year-old from Tbilisi making her UFC debut, has won five straight including four first-round submission stoppages.
"I think she’s pretty well-rounded," Moras said of her opponent. "I think I’m more well-rounded so I’m excited to show everyone what I’ve been learning."
Moras’ Cheesecake nickname came after a friend dared her to come out to her first pro fight to the song "Cheesecake" by the Muppets.
"My friend also said if I came out to that song, she’d bake me a cheesecake and hand it to me as I walked out of the cage," Moras recalled. "So I was cutting weight and I really wanted cheesecake, so (I said) yeah.
"I’m a huge cheesecake fan. I have cheesecake parties after most of my fights where everyone brings a cheesecake. It’s ridiculous. There’s like 30 cheesecakes and we try to eat as much of it as we can."
There is more at stake than calories for Moras as she enters the last fight of her UFC contract. She has lost her last three bouts and four of her last five.
"Life seems to work itself out and I’ve worked too hard not to get the win this time," said Moras. "Things came up in the other fights. I don’t know, I just wasn’t where i am now. I feel like I needed what happened to happen in order for me to be where I am now.
"I’m excited to show everyone who I really am and how I really fight."
Moras, a member of the Season 18 cast of "The Ultimate Fighter," has fought on UFC cards in Edmonton, Ottawa and Moncton as well as Las Vegas, San Diego and Austin, Texas. So she jumped at the chance to fight in the Middle East.
"I’m still excited about it. I don’t think that excitement’s worn off," she said. "It’s pretty surreal. I can’t believe I’m here right now. I’m just so looking forward to it all."
Despite the pressure of fighting to stay in the UFC, Moras is enjoying the moment. She and partner Cleve Bentley, a fellow fighter, have been documenting the trip on social media.
"He’s one of my main training partners, one of my coaches," she said. "He’s my everything."
Moras has sacrificed for her sport. Injuries kept her out of action for 785 days before her win over Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC 215 in September 2017.
She returned to her job with Canada Post. And she started a gofundme campaign with a goal to raise $10,000 for her training camp for the Smith fight.
Moras called Toshido Mixed Martial Arts home for much of her fighting career. But she moved to Las Vegas to train at Xtreme Couture and use the UFC Performance Institute for everything from nutrition to medical help.
"I’ve just been loving it," she said. "There’s a lot more training partners and bodies and better coaching. Just a really positive environment to be around. So it’s been awesome in getting me better."
She believes the Performance Institute has helped her avoid the injuries that plagued her career in the past.
"I can focus full-time on fighting," she said.