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After a previous booking fell through last month, Marvin Vettori and Karl Roberson had some heat heading into their co-main event matchup at UFC on ESPN 10.
Roberson pulled out of UFC Fight Night 171 when he fell ill due to his weight cut, and that led to an expletive-laden confrontation with Vettori at the fighter hotel in Jacksonville. On Saturday, it was “The Italian Dream” who had the last laugh, as he submitted Roberson with a rear-naked choke 4:17 into the open round at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
It was an emotional victory for Vettori in more ways than one.
“So much was going on, has been going on for the last six months. So much focus and improvement has been made. So much back home has been going on,” Vettori said in a post-fight interview on ESPN+. “I want to dedicate this victory to my grandpa that passed away a month ago just before my other fight. I couldn’t do it then because the fight didn’t happen. He was really sick for a while, but just the fact that I wasn’t there hurt a lot for me. I just wanted to dedicate my victoy to him, rest in peace.”
Once the fight hit the canvas, Vettori was a man on a mission. He threatened with a guillotine choke early, but Roberson was able to power out of the predicament.
“He climbed the cage with his back. I wasn’t expecting that,” Vettori said.
From there, a scramble resulted in Vettori assuming top position, where he softened his opponent with ground-and-pound before securing the fight-ending maneuver. As he was landing the punches from above, Vettori claims he could feel Roberson’s resolve weakening.
“He was out of the fight. Not physically, but more mentally … He wanted the referee to step in,” Vettori said. “I was a little bit too much on the floor. I didn’t land too many punches but he wanted out. I knew this because….all the buildup to the fight, I knew he would come out strong, but when he went through all his weapons and nothing worked, he was just giving up.”
Vettori also pointed to Roberson’s repeated troubles on the scale as a telling sign that the fight would go his way. Roberson missed weight by 4.5 pounds on Friday.
“All these things show me throughout the buildup to the fight showed me that he wasn’t willing to go all the way,” Vettori said. “Going in, I’m ready to die. Whatever happens I’m ready to die. I knew that he wasn’t there mentally like me.”
Vettori, who notably battled current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya to a split-decision defeat earlier in his career, hopes to receive a more prominent opponent for his next UFC appearance.
“I don’t care who I fight, but I need a ranked opponent to keep climbing. I deserve this and I will get it,” he said. “A lot of people have been dodging me. No one will step over me and I will get in the mix soon.”