Nikolas Motta is happy to call New Jersey his new home.
A native of Brazil, Motta [11-3] won three of his last four fights since moving to the Garden State in 2017. On top of that, he won his last two fights in New Jersey.
He is training alongside plenty of UFC veterans between Ricardo Almeida BJJ in Robbinsville and Driven Gym in Woodbridge.
After moving from American Top Team in Coconut, Florida to Ocean County, Motta became the Cage Fury Fighting Championships [CFFC] Lightweight Champion. It’s the same title previously held by Paul Felder, Darrel Horcher and Charlie Brenneman.
His two-fight win streak is enough reason to stay in the state. It’s the same thing he told his training partner, UFC’s own Cody Garbrandt.
“I said, ‘Damn Cody, all my two fights that I lived in New Jersey I won and the only fight where I did live in Florida, I lost,” Motta said.
“I have real good friends here, I like the people here and I love New Jersey.”
Reaping the benefits
If people didn’t know of Motta before he moved to the Northeast, there’s a good chance they do now. The 27-year-old knocked out now-UFC lightweight Joe Solecki and prospect Cesar Balmaceda.
He became the promotion’s new champion after defeating Juan Gonzalez by unanimous decision for the vacant strap at CFFC 79 on Nov. 16, 2019.
Motta is no stranger to training with some of the best gyms in the world. He opted to join Nova Uniao instead of attending college after graduating high school at 18 years old.
As a 21-year-old, Motta made it on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil season 4, where he lost in the elimination round. He eventually left Brazil to come to the United States.
Motta gained plenty of experience before heading north, but there’s something different about New Jersey.
“Maybe because I’m not a UFC champion or something like that yet, but sometimes big teams are different. Sometimes training for smaller teams, you get more attention from the coach, I like that,” Motta said. “All this energy and friendship, I think that’s why I won all the fights here.”
His signature left hook only improved since moving. Before coming to New Jersey, he knocked out Solecki with a third-round left hook at 864 Fighting Championships on July 21, 2018.
In his CFFC debut, his left hook put Balmaceda away in the first round at CFFC 77 on Aug. 16, 2019.
A Muay-Thai specialist working with James Meals, Motta is also getting plenty of left hooks in with his boxing coaches, Danny Murray and Rahn Carter.
“I’ve always had it since I was a teenager, on kick fighting and kickboxing,” Motta said. “He’s [Carter] made me repeat the left hook so many times, so much hard work to make the left hook like that.”
Friends in high places
Motta built quite the social circle around himself since coming to New Jersey. He’s trained with Marlon Moraes, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza and Frankie Edgar. He is even cornered by Claudia Gadelha.
Motta is optimistic about joining his UFC comrades by fighting on Dana White’ Contender Series this summer. The COVID-19 pandemic adds some uncertainty, but Motta remains confident he can fight by June or later.
The Brazilian is keeping his options open, willing to compete for other larger promotions like Bellator, Professional Fight League and One Fighting Championships. Motta wants to fight where many of his friends are.
They are helping him get there.
“In New Jersey, I have so many great friends,” Motta said “That’s why all this energy and friendship, that’s why I think I won all these fights here.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.