You might not know the name Albert Morales yet, but trust me, after this weekend you will. Morales is a product of Dana White Lookin' For a Fight episode seven and he's climbed the ranks pretty swiftly.
On Saturday he looks to make his second UFC appearance, this time in a co-main slot against veteran Thomas Almeida.
I've been lucky enough to be present (and photograph) a number of Morales' fights as he travelled through Bellator, WSOF, RFA and now to the UFC. I've been able to personally watch him grow from a talented prospect to a co-main event attraction. You can read all about Albert's first UFC fight here, from Albert himself.
Now we'll share some never-before-seen images of Morales, that I've captured for the past two years.
The Rise of Albert Morales
January 2015 - Albert made his pro MMA debut at Bellator 132 defeating Fabian Gonzalez via second round submission. The fight ended in a bloody mess due to incessant strikes through almost the entirety of round one. But it was round two where Albert showed he was more than just a one trick pony and finished the fight via a rear-naked choke.
May 2015 - Albert makes his second appearance inside the Bellator cage. This time defeating John Yoo via a third round TKO. I was so impressed by Albert's last fight that I sat and watched this one instead of shooting it. The bout was after the main event and the crowd had started heading home, but those that were left could be heard screaming in delight at the war that was taking place before them. I recall seeing fighters watching from backstage drawn out solely by the roar of the intense crowd.
October 2015 - Albert accepts a fight with BAMMA USA, a local Southern California promotion. He faced David Suruy and ended the fight in just under a minute via triangle choke.
January 2016 - Albert moves on to West Coast Fighting Championships and dominates there as well. Little by little, Morales is making a name for himself in some of the biggest promotions in his home state. People are avoiding fights with him, he's a killer and everyone knows it. He ended up defeating Kurt Weinrich via triangle choke in the first round.
February 2016 - He would then move on to World Series of Fighting and secure his fifth professional victory, a decision over Anthony Paredes. The three round war went Morales' way and his win streak continued.
June 2016 - Albert competed at RFA 38 in what would be the most pivotal moment in his professional career thus far. Not only did he shock the crowd with his 20-second KO of Mario Israel, but UFC President Dana White happened to be sitting in the crowd. White would go on to sign Albert on the spot and the rest is history!
September 2016 - Albert made his UFC debut in Texas (the first time he'd fought outside of California) but the three round war ended in a draw. Many, including me, thought Morales was robbed of a win he clearly earned, but he never let the outcome get him down. And he's used that showing to propel him to a co-main slot.
Morales competes in his second UFC bout on Saturday when he faces Thomas Almeida at UFC Fight Night Sao Paulo as the co-main event.