Brandon Royval (R) (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

UFC on ESPN 29’s Brandon Royval: Time to Shine

The fight game is an entertainment business and nobody wants to watch a boring fight. So, when Brandon Royval shows up on a fight card, it’s impossible to look away.

Less than two years ago, Colorado’s Royval entered the Legacy Fighting Alliance cage for the eighth time in a bid for the vacant flyweight title. He was 9-4 as a pro, having never been stopped. He had finished his opponents in eight of his nine victories. At LFA 79, it took him all of 23 seconds to secure an armbar submission over Nate Williams, which earned him the title. The guy has never had a boring fight in his life.

In May 2020, Royval won his UFC debut over Tim Elliott. In September, he took out Kai Kara-France with a guillotine choke. That brought his submission winning streak to four in a row. Then, in November, he faced Brandon Moreno at UFC 255. It was a back-and-forth battle through the first round until Royval suffered a shoulder injury. Moreno scored the TKO with only one second left in the round.


“I tore my labrum,” Royval told Combat Press. “I had chipped bones and a torn labrum before. It was just a matter of time. I actually injured it right before I won the LFA belt. I would dislocate my shoulder after practice or in the middle of practice or something like that. It would just put me out of training.

“I had to get that surgery done, and I’m just working really hard to get everything back to where I was before. It’s been a pain in the ass, but I’ve spent a lot of time getting my shoulder back to where it was. I’ve also been rebuilding these skills and stuff I’ve had before.”

Royval was fairly happy with his own performance up until the injury. However, he’s not about to take anything away from Moreno.

“I felt like it was going good my way,” Royval said. “I was cooking, and I feel like I figured him out on the feet. That being said, taking the injury away, I would have scored the first round for him. I felt good about the match-up, and I can’t wait to fight him again in the future.”

Moreno went on to fight then-champion Deiveson Figueiredo twice in a row. The two went to a draw in one of the most exciting fights of the year. Moreno then won the strap on the second go-around with a third-round submission in June.

It was around three full months before Royval was able to train. He wasn’t allowed to run or anythin. But he still spent time around his gym, Factory X Muay Thai.

“There are pictures of me all fat,” Royval joked. “Like, I blew up and was in my sling working out at the gym, kickboxing with people and sparring. It was funny.

“When I was sitting on the couch, and I couldn’t leave — I was on drugs and pain killers and stuff — I got good at video games. I’ve had a PlayStation for two years, and I only played it a couple times until after that surgery. The guys at the gym were already good at Call of Duty, and I learned how to play. I went from being a burden to not being as much of a burden.”

Royval is as hard of a worker as they come. He has a reputation for giving it his all in training. Royval was right back to work as soon as he could be. And, the UFC was ready to get him back in the mix.

“They were pushing for me to fight pretty much right after the surgery,” Royval said. “They were like, ‘when can we get him back?’ I would say it was at least like March when they were trying to get me a fight. I booked [Alexandre] Pantoja in May, and I might have still been in a sling when I booked the Pantoja fight.”

Tomorrow night, live on ESPN, Royval and Pantoja will face off on the main card of UFC on ESPN 29. This is a pivotal flyweight clash between two of the top guys in the division, and will certainly have implications toward a title shot.

“I love the match-up,” Royval said. “I love the opportunity. He’s a crazy opponent that throws bombs and has that finishing style. I tend to not do as well against fighters that are more point fighters, and Pantoja is the farthest thing from a point fighter. He’s going to try to knock my head of, and he’s going to try to submit me. I think it’s going to lead to his own defeat. His aggression is going to lead to him walking into big punches.”

Pantoja currently sits at No. 3 in the UFC flyweight division. Royval is ranked sixth. A win over Pantoja would be a big one, boosting Royval’s chances at a title fight.

“I want a finish,” Royval explained. “I want to put everybody on notice. Even if they don’t give me a title shot, I want everybody to be afraid to fight me. But, I think a win gives me a title shot, because [second-ranked] Askar Askarov got injured and was forced out of that Alex Perez fight. Since he’s probably the closest to getting a title shot that’s not Pantoja or myself, I think that automatically boosts us to a title fight.”

Ultimately, Royval would love to get another crack at Moreno. And, the fact that he now holds the flyweight title would make it that much sweeter. The fight tomorrow night is much more than beating Pantoja. It could lead to his overall dream of being a UFC champion.

“Moreno had the fight of the year just a couple weeks after [our fight],” Royval said. “Then, they had the rematch, and Moreno becomes a superstar. It creates the perfect timing for me to come back, and beat someone that already has two wins over Moreno. I can come back and take a little bit of that stardom — win that belt.

“I’m the most exciting fighter in the flyweight division. I’ve got the most finishes. It’s [going] to be a one-sided ass whooping. Pantoja’s an exciting fighter, too, and I’ sure he’s going to bring it.”

Royval is, indeed, a very entertaining fighter. He’s one of the most talented flyweights in the UFC, and tomorrow night, he has a big opportunity to put himself at the top of the heap, live on ESPN.