Marvin Vettori never would have imagined that 2020 would turn out to be such a crazy year for him.
After overcoming Andrew Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 161 in October, Vettori was scheduled to fight to face Darren Stewart on March 21 in London. Unfortunately for the Italian, the UFC canceled the event due to the COVID-19 outbreak. After that, things started to go downhill for "The Italian Dream" for a while.
First, he should have met Karl Roberson on April 25, but the UFC against postponed the card. Then, Vettori and Karl Roberson should have locked horns on May 13 at UFC Fight Night 171. The day before the fight, "Baby K" weighed in 1.5 pounds over the middleweight limit. A few hours later, Roberson was removed from the fight due to rhabdomyolysis, or a severe injury to his muscles from them breaking down. Shortly after, they had an altercation in a Jacksonville, Florida, hotel lobby. The UFC noted the animosity and promoted them in the co-main event spot at UFC on ESPN 10.
The third time is the charm, the saying goes. Vettori and Roberson finally met one other in the cage on June 13. One can imagine the expressive Italian fighter's face when his opponent missed weight once again, when Roberson hit the scales at 190.5 pounds.
“I knew he was going to miss weight again,” Vettori told Sherdog. “No one believed me, but I was sure he wouldn’t have made it. When I saw that he came heavy on the scale, I thought, ‘Oh s---, here we go again’ and I was angry. But then Sean Shelby asked me to calm down and said they would have compensated me for that. The UFC asked him to stop cutting weight so that he could be cleared to fight. I said that I was okay with everything as long as he could step into the cage.”
“The Italian Dream” solved the Roberson puzzle in a mere 4:17 in the opening stanza, scoring the ninth submission victory in his career, and his fourth via rear-naked choke. Now, Vettori rides a three-bout winning streak inside the Octagon. Before him, just one other Italian fighter managed to do that under the UFC banner: Alessio Sakara.
“My gameplan was to take my time and not to force anything,” he revealed. “But then I saw an opening, and I pushed that high crotch. Perhaps, it didn’t come out smoothly, but I did it anyway because I felt overconfident in my grappling. I was calm in my striking game, I studied his fighting style, and I knew what he was going to do. Everything he tried to do was so phoned that I could see it coming from miles away. Kudos to him for that escape from my guillotine choke attempt. I’ve already used that technique in the past. I felt him panting, so I knew that it was in. But even after his trick with the cage, I knew he was mentally down, so I just secured that rear-naked choke.”
In the post-fight interview, Vettori said to Paul Felder that he trained like a “f--ing autistic” person for this fight. He wanted to clear the air about his words, since that expression came quite poorly out of his mouth.
“I apologize if I offended someone, it wasn’t my intention. Perhaps I expressed myself in inadequate words, and I’m sincerely sorry for that. What I meant was that I focused on this match since the beginning of 2020. I did nothing except for training. I have nothing against autistic people, if not respect.”
Unlike a few months ago, the health situation in Italy is improving, and the patient numbers are lower than ever. Still, it may take a while before Vettori can celebrate his victory with his hardcore fans from the Team Vettori in Mezzocorona. Besides that, “The Italian Dream” would also like to honor his grandfather, who recently passed away.
“As soon as the Italian frontiers reopen, I want to spend some time with my family there. But first, I want to understand what it’s going to happen with the US traveling ban. I don't want to go back in Italy and find myself stuck there. But I’m eager to see once again all the Team Vettori and to say goodbye to my grandfather.”