Marvin Vettori lives his dream with Israel Adesanya title fight – Orange County Register

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In the town of Mezzocorona, a municipality in Trentino, Italy, with a population of less than 6,000, where the Austrian border lies to the north closer than Venice to the southeast or Milan to the southwest, a teenager has watched the UFC and dreamed.

Marvin Vettori had tried kickboxing, but it was mixed martial arts that inspired him. He was 16 and ventured all over Italy in search of training.

He moved to London when he was 18. He traveled to Southern California to pursue his career in hopes of one day becoming the top echelon of the sport. He made his UFC debut at 22.

Less than five years later, Vettori aims to become the first Italian champion in UFC history when he challenges middleweight king Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 263 on Saturday at Gila River Arena. of Glendale, Arizona.

“I never gave up what I believed in,” Vettori said in a telephone interview three days before his title fight. “Everything I have and… it just means that all through these years and even through all the struggles, I was doing the right thing. Now that I’m here, I’ll make the most of it. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and there is no way I won’t do my best.

Vettori’s journey did not defy death and is not unique. But giving up his ambitions – becoming a pro MMA fighter, fighting in the UFC, succeeding in the UFC – has never been an option.

Ahead of his previous fight, a lopsided unanimous victory over Kevin Holland on April 10 with a record middleweight 11 eliminations, Vettori revealed that he had already stayed a few days at a McDonald’s in Huntington Beach because they had the wi-fi and were open 24 hours.

Before that, it was his introduction to MMA training in London, at a gym that housed UFC fighters like John Hathaway and Claudio Silva – “Damn, even for me just seeing a UFC fighter was something special back then, ”he said – and was much taller than anything he found in Italy.

A novice suddenly found himself craving more.

“I just got my ass pounded really bad, late at night basically, and I go out on the mat and lay down and I’m like, ‘This is where I wanna be,'” said Vettori. “Even though I knew how hard I would have to struggle to pursue this dream, that’s why I decided. This is what makes me happy. I want to fight.

Vettori eventually landed at the Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro and amidst some of the biggest names and champions in the sport.

The UFC lightweight and his Kings MMA teammate Beneil Dariush have gained an appreciation for everything Vettori has endured.

“Dude, you don’t understand how hungry Marvin is and how much he sacrifices himself.” I don’t think the average person will ever understand until they put themselves in their shoes and just the things they’ve sacrificed, ”said Dariush, who is leading a seven-game winning streak. “It’s going to mean more to him than I can even say. I think that says a lot because I’m in the same situation. I do the same job as him.

Vettori started his UFC career with a 2-2-1 record before notching his five-game winning streak that propelled him into the top tier of the 185-pound division.

His last defeat? It was for Adesanya, in the same arena in Arizona that they will fight on Saturday, just over three years ago.

Some fans believe that Vettori won this first track. Vettori does. And Judge Chris Lee did, but not his other two peers, attributing the split decision to Adesanya.

Vettori, 27, allows for some natural improvement in Adesanya since that night in the desert, but not over how he thinks his skills are refined and polished. “Now that’s a whole different story. Now I’m a whole different animal, ”he said.

Dariush, who also believes Vettori was victorious in this 2018 fight, claims his teammate’s gains are exponential.

“He’s definitely improved in his hitting, his grappling has increased tremendously,” said Dariush. “I’m very impressed with how much better his grappling is now and he’s not what he used to be.

“Dude, that Marvin would beat that Marvin in the blink of an eye.”

Vettori (17-4-1) was one of 20 consecutive opponents to fail against Adesanya, who won the interim belt in April 2019, against Vettori Kings MMA teammate Kelvin Gastelum, and unified the title by knocking out Robert Whittaker in October 2019.

Adesanya (20-1) won nine straight UFC fights before trying to become a two-time champion in March, failing by unanimous decision against light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.

He and Vettori had slight exchanges as they passed the Fighters’ Hotel this week, with neither approaching the fireworks display during Thursday’s press conference, where the fighters traded steroid charges and had to be separated while Adesanya played down Vettori’s fight book and victory over Holland.

“Like I said, look at the list of those he fought. The only person I know on this list is Jack Hermansson, ”said the 31-year-old New Zealander of Nigerian descent. “He only got here because he fought a bum at No 10. He was at No 6 and got at No 3.”

Vettori, the more agitated of the two at the press conference, is expected by many to implement his wrestling and grappling against the former kickboxing world champion. He says it will be the champion who gets frustrated on Saturday night.

“He won’t find the person, the fighter he thinks he finds,” said the 6-foot-tall Vettori, who will be at a six-inch disadvantage against 6-foot-4 Adesanya.

“He won’t be able to apply what he wants to do. He’s going to make mistakes and I want to capitalize on them.

If he wins the belt, Vettori has said he will definitely take it back to Mezzocorona, where he will be celebrated like a king. When asked if he was ever considered a king for having gone as far as he had, Vettori objected.

“I have to win the belt. I win the belt, I can wear a crown, ”he said. “Without the belt, I can’t. It wouldn’t be good to wear the crown without the belt.

UFC 263

Main event: Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-4-1)

When: Saturday

Or: Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona

How to watch: preliminaries (3 p.m., ESPN / ESPN +); main card (7 p.m., PPV via ESPN +)



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