With a co-main event clash with rival Sean O’Malley just over a week away, one might expect Marlon Vera to be excited about finally getting his hands on the popular bantamweight.
However, as is the case with most of his bookings, “Chito” isn’t particularly fixated on any personal grudge with the man who will be on the opposite side of the cage on fight night, but more so the chance to compete and prove that he deserves to be considered among the best at 135 pounds.
Vera is 5-1 in his last six fights with all of those wins coming by way of knockout or submission and he has the reputation of being one of the division’s toughest outs. It’s because of these recent results that he sees himself as being the most important fight to date of O’Malley’s career.
“This is just how I feel, I could be right or wrong, but he hasn’t fought nobody—I say this not to start sh*t talk—but it’s real,” Vera said on What the Heck? “The last couple of guys he fought, they haven’t done anything. He beat [Eddie Wineland] who’s past his prime multiple years ago, he’s been not fighting really. He’s coming in with one win against a newcomer and it took him a lot of damage to win the fight.
“If you do the math, he needs to fight somebody like me to stay relevant and guess what, I’m not even in the rankings. If I’m in the rankings, I wouldn’t call out somebody that’s not in the rankings just to prove myself. I’m looking forward, I want to fight somebody ahead of me. But everybody’s different, so at the end of the day, they offer the fight and I’m like why not, f**k it. The guy has a number next to his name, it’s good for me.”
O’Malley, 25, has yet to taste defeat in his first 12 pro bouts, making an immediate impact after a much-talked about performance on the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series. He won decisions against Andre Soukhamthath and Terrion Ware to begin his UFC career, then won by first-round knockout in his most recent outings against one-time UFC title challenger Wineland and Jose Quinonez.
Vera and O’Malley were scheduled to compete at UFC 239 in July of last year, but O’Malley was pulled from that fight due to a USADA suspension for ostarine. They now meet in the co-main event of UFC 252 on Aug. 15, a position that isn’t giving Vera any added stress.
“Honestly, with pressure, without pressure, talking about me, not talking about me, again, I don’t give a fk,” Vera said. “I don’t chase those things, I don’t chase people talking about me. How you get that? Just go in there and fking people up. That’s what the UFC wants. That’s what Dana White wants. Nobody cares about nothing. Nobody cares about feelings. People care about winning. Once you do that, you’re good go to.”
Numerous bantamweights have become involved in public feuds with O’Malley, including former champion Cody Garbrandt, Cody Stamann, and Brian Kelleher. However, it’s Vera who got the call to actually face O’Malley and though he’s relishing the opportunity, he’s going to pass on talking too much trash for now.
Asked if he feels like he’ll be doing the rest of the division a favor by beating O’Malley, Vera said he appreciates the support of it’s there, but otherwise he couldn’t care less.
“I’m not here to be thinking about what people say,” Vera said. “That’s why this is a sport of fighting. We’ve got 15 minutes or 25 to beat the sh*t out of each other with no consequences – there’s a couple of rules in there – but a lot of people it’s just, the more they pay attention to what somebody says, the more that somebody wins. Every time these kooks are talking to us or whatever and we answer, that’s on us, that’s our fault. Why are you answering them? Every time you answer to somebody you make them happy.
“But these are guys in the top-five. What an idiot, answering to O’Malley that is lower in the rankings. He’s like, what, [ranked No. 14] right now? Why are you guys talking back to him? The more you talk back to him, the cooler he is because the big boys are talking back to the kid. It’s common sense. I don’t know. If we’re gonna fight, just wait until the fight. Talk a little sht, have fun, but those guys are mad. A lot of people are mad about him. You’re already losing, you’re mad about it. You want to talk sht? Okay, cool. Guess what, if we’re face to face, then it changes. He doesn’t say nothing face to face, I saw him face to face, or in the elevator. I was like, ‘Are you gonna say something?’ You’ve always got to be ready, you don’t know what the people’s energy is around you. I don’t care. If the bantamweight guys are cheering for me, cool; if not, f**k off, I want to beat them anyways.”