Rising bantamweight contender Marlon Vera previews his main event matchup Saturday at UFC Vegas 53 against Rob Font. "Chito" tells Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole to expect a great fight and that he believes he can finish Font.
KEVIN IOLE: Hi, folks, I am Kevin Iole from Yahoo Sports. Thank you for joining me. And my guest right now is gonna to be in the main event of UFC Vegas 53, a guy that's really been on a roll recently. He's won four bonuses in his last six fights in the UFC. He has absolutely been tearing it up and has a big fight on Saturday against Rob Font. Of course, I'm talking about Marlon "Chito" Vera. Chito, how are you doing, my friend?
MARLON VERA: I'm feeling great. I'm excited, I'm happy, and I'm just-- I'm enjoying this fight week. And I can't wait till Saturday night.
KEVIN IOLE: You're one of many athletes who kind of had that roller coaster in your career, some down, some up, and whatnot. But you have really been on a rise recently. What do you attribute the turnaround in your career to? Even one of the fights you lost, I know the Song Yadong fight, a lot of people thought you won that fight, right? So how do you attribute the turnaround in your career?
MARLON VERA: I always believe consistency is key in life. You know, I've been consistent in my training, in my focus, in just finding ways to get better. And I've been very active in the cage. And once I'm done with a fight, I switch the page and go back to the gym. If I'm healthy, there's no point to take a couple of months off and forget about [INAUDIBLE]. So I'm just very consistent. I'm doing my thing, I train every day. And that's the only way to improve your life.
KEVIN IOLE: You're from Ecuador. And I was gonna to say, I don't know a lot of MMA fighters from Ecuador. I don't know a lot of fighters of any kind from Ecuador, or maybe there are that I don't know of. So when you come from a place like that, that's not a hotbed of the sport you're in, does it make it difficult? And did it force you to do things that other fighters didn't have to do to find competition and get yourself up there?
MARLON VERA: It make it so hard, because when I start, there was no road. There was no guide. There was no, like, this is where you should go. So I felt, sometimes, like, I don't even know how I remained in the company for this long. Because at the beginning, I was just kind of, like, playing with the fire. My work ethic has always been good. I've always been the guy that tries really hard.
But at the beginning, when I see videos of me hitting me to grab back in the day, it looks like a joke. But I was being seriously about it. I was being persistent. And I was just trying to figure it out. And once I moved to the US, I think I was like, wow, OK, this is how training feels. This Is real. So I was like, OK, now got to feel the heart up, level up, and figured it out. But it was quite a roller coaster back then.
KEVIN IOLE: You got it done. Now, I guess the question is, like, what is that impact on your family, especially when you move away for the first time? You say to your wife, the people you love, hey, I'm gonna go to another continent, I'm going to go somewhere else and try to go after it. I mean, I imagine that's got to put an incredible strain on your personal life.
MARLON VERA: That was a hard thing to do, leave my home for a year, left two kids, my wife, and just kind of figured it out to make some money to bring them at some point. Because when I left my house, I didn't have more than 6 grand. So. I kind of like, everything I was making from some people that's [INAUDIBLE] responsible. I was like, OK, I told my wife, keep the money. My family will support you, her family was support it.
But just let me do this, because if I say here, we will go nowhere. So, you know, a good wife is everything in life. I think a bad woman can drag you down. But a good one will take you a long way. And she was able to handle it. She was able to stay with two kids by herself. And you just wait for me.
And when I left, I had a lot of cancellations on fights. So it was crazy, like the years were getting harder and harder. Then I had five fights canceled back to back. So I was like, I need to make some to bring my family. So I'm just teaching a lot of classes, trying to survive myself in the US and just trying to stay alive.
Was leaving, but I was living in the [INAUDIBLE] house. I was in everything possible to figure it out. And I just got a fight in Australia like eight months later. And I was like, OK, this is it. If you win this fight, you remain in the UFC. If you lose this m you're gone,
So I had a lot on my plate trying to get-- I don't want to go back home as a loser. I don't want to go home as somebody that failed. So I saw myself like, do this thing, get this win, and bring your family to the US. And that's what I did. I flew back to Ecuador, back, bring them back. I was here by January. So that was a little bit of a struggle. there's nothing sweet that comes just because. You got to go through a little hard times to [INAUDIBLE] this.
KEVIN IOLE: What was it like when you first moved here? And did you speak the language? And then, when you're not making money, and you're training like crazy, you're teaching classes-- and I know you're not getting rich off of those classes-- like, what are the kind of things that you had to sacrifice that maybe people don't understand. Because you gave up a lot in order to pursue this dream. Like, can you talk about. a little bit of some of the things that you had to give up because you couldn't afford?
MARLON VERA: Going for a house in Ecuador, you don't need too much in Ecuador to have a good life, the comfort of being with my family, the comfort of being with people that will never let me down. So they will figure out how to support me. But I left everything because I had a dream that was bigger than my comfort, that was bigger than what I was wishing.
Nothing comes just by wishing it. It comes when you actually go out there and work for them. So I left everything behind. I say, I'm gonna do this thing happy. And I want to be the guy that left everything to make happen. And I probably wasn't the best fighter back then, but I knew I had the heart, I knew I have the will to keep going. And I figured it out and made it happen.
You know, your chin is notoriously good. I mean, I've seen guys hit you on the chin and you just take those punches. Is that something naturally that you've always been good at, Marlon. Or is this something that you work on to try to build up your resistance to punches?
I don't think-- well, I don't know. I don't think you can build that. I, honestly, I'm trying not to get punched. But I think being in great shape, being healthy, check your living habits, like, don't drink alcohol, don't go out late at night, don't eat bad food.
I think all that play in the way that you can take more punishment. You can dig a little deeper and you'll be fine. So that's why I keep a healthy lifestyle From the gym to my house, I spend a lot of time with my family. But I don't have nothing that drags me down.
I done blew up in between camps. I'm not drinking every day. I'm not going out on the weekends. All they do is work. All they do is spend time with their family. All they do is barbecue with friends and have a good time. And I'm not [AUDIO OUT] around. I'm gonna to do all crazy later on after I retire.
Right now, I'm just putting my eyes on the prize and I want to be a world champion. So you sacrifice everything for a huge goal. And that's why I believe I can take one.
KEVIN IOLE: I wrote about Font. I think you're in a similar situation. And I want to mention this to you. So you have Sterling as the champion. And then, I think four of the first six people in the rankings, he's five. Or, either champions or former champion, you got Henry Cejudo coming back.
So your division is just absolutely filled with elite fighters, and former champions, who you know are gonna get opportunities just because of their background. How do you maintain your focus and stay on the path when you know, hey, Henry Cejudo is coming back. They're gonna probably slip him in there. And he's gonna to jump ahead of me. And those kind of things, which on the surface, would seem to be unfair and maybe make you want to say, what the hell? What am I doing here?
MARLON VERA: Best thing's not to pay. attention. There's things you can control and there's things you cannot control. Let's say I go in there and knock him out. Then. I feel I'm ready for [INAUDIBLE] and then they just give it to somebody else. I'm OK with that. Just don't be a bitch and keep going I don't really have that mentality of like, oh, I deserve this, you should give it to me.
If I win a fight, and I feel I deserve the next shot, and the UFC decide to somebody else, it won't make any difference on my life. And I'm like, cool. That means I didn't actually deserve it. So it really won't bother me. There's nothing to do wasting energy on things you cannot control. So I always tell it to people, don't cry about this. If you didn't get it, it was because maybe you don't really deserve it. So, earn it, find a way.
KEVIN IOLE: So we talked about your life, and a lot of it's about money, the fact you didn't have it and trying to get it. So what is the most important in becoming a champion, the accomplishment of having that belt around your waist and knowing that you did something that very few people in history can do, or the money that comes with becoming the champion that you get?
MARLON VERA: Both. Both are things that I want. I want to achieve things that regular people can't, just because I like to be different. I like to do big things in life. And all the opportunities that came with the belt can change my life, you know? I can be the best, man, serve my kids for the future, and just not make the money and have the money. Because that's also-- how many people with money have awful lives?
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.
MARLON VERA: I want, at least, my kids to know like, hey, yes, there's a lot of money now. Daddy win a fight. But you're gonna learn that this didn't happen just because I'm cool. This didn't happen because somebody came and hand me this check. It's a lot of work.
So I want to show with example. I want to let them know, like, nothing comes just because. You got to go and do something to get things. So I'm all about that. And I feel, as a parent, we can only create a better version of us and our kids. So that's my goal in life, be happy, have a good family, and don't leave anything, be kind of set.
KEVIN IOLE: Maybe you should walk out to Bobby McFerrin on Saturday, don't worry, be happy. That might be the perfect song for you to come out to you, right?
MARLON VERA: I like the song, yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: So, hey, let's wrap it up with this. Rob Font's obviously a terrific fighter. He had an interesting fight with Aldo, where he lost all five rounds in that fight. But I thought they were competitive rounds, especially the first three, you know, when Rob started going for it in the last two. Aldo, maybe, cleaned up a little bit more. But what do you take from that fight? And what kind of fight can people who are gonna tune in on Saturday to watch you and him go at it, what kind of fight can they expect?
MARLON VERA: They will expect a really fun fight. If he comes forward, we'll meet in the middle. And if he decides to go for a walk, I'm gonna to find him. I think I'm gonna put on an exciting performance. And I'm gonna do everything to win this fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you think you can finish him, given the styles that you have?
MARLON VERA: I think I'm finish him.
KEVIN IOLE: Interesting. All right, that would be something else. Last question before I let you go, you know, you got a little notoriety before because of the win over Sean O'Malley and the way that he reacted to it and everything. I know you're probably over him. But I wonder, he's now in the top 15 because of what he said and what happened in the aftermath of that fight. Is there a little bit a part of you that wants to fight him again just to, you know, prove that what happened wasn't a fluke?
MARLON VERA: That's up to him or the UFC. if they call us, they pay, I fight. I'm not over him. I was never worried about him or nothing else. Like, he's just another fight. I don't have a space in my head for all the clout, all the-- you know what I'm saying? I'm a fighter. And I already knock him out. If he want it, then come get some.
KEVIN IOLE: Good attitude, I love to hear it. Marlon "Chito" Vera, he will be fighting Rob Font on Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas, UFC Vegas 53. Marlon, thank you so much, my friend. Good luck to you.
MARLON VERA: Thank you sir, appreciate you.
KEVIN IOLE: Bye.