Part of Marlon Vera’s strategy for his upcoming fight is very simple: don’t underestimate his opponent.
The Ecuadorian fighter, who’s booked to fight Brian Kelleher at this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 25 in Long Island, N.Y., is currently in the best moment of his UFC career, and he’s trying to keep it that way. The season one contestant of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America has been able to put together back-to-back wins for the first time in his UFC career, outpointing Ning Guangyou in November, and impressively stopping MMA veteran Brad Pickett to win a Performance of the Night bonus earlier this year.
Now, looking to extend his win streak to three in a row against Kelleher, Vera is taking this fight very seriously. Not only does the 24-year-old bantamweight believe that Kelleher is a solid fighter, but he also thinks Kellerher’s UFC debut opponent, Iuri Alcantara, took the bout lightly, which ended up costing him the fight.
“He’s [Kelleher] a tough fighter, he’s in the UFC for a reason,” Vera told MMA Fighting. “He beat someone ranked, but every fight is different and each fight has its differences. Now he’s facing someone totally different, and I’m not Alcantara, I’m not going to give up, I take all my fights seriously. I have an opponent that wants to beat me and can beat me if I take him lightly. So I’m just going to go out there and fight like always. I trust in my preparation, I trust in myself, I trust in my coaches and the people who have my back. I’ve done all the right things, I’m going to win.”
Alcantara was ranked No. 13 in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings when he faced then-UFC newcomer Kelleher at UFC 212 back in June. Fighting in his home country of Brazil and being ranked in the division, many thought Alcantara was going to run through the American, but Kelleher spoiled that party, submitting the ranked fighter in less than two minutes.
“I don’t know him, but from the outside it looked like he [Alcantara] took that fight lightly,” Vera said. “In this sport, you can’t take anyone lightly, we’ve seen that many times such as Bisping vs. Rockhold, and many others. That always happens when an opponent thinks that fight is already won before they fight and that’s a mistake because any strike can change the course of the fight. So that’s not going to be the case here, I’m going to go out like if I were fighting a top guy.”
This bout marks the fourth time Vera has fought in enemy territory under the UFC banner. While many competitors look to fight on neutral ground, the Team Oyama product doesn’t really care, and doesn’t see fighting Kelleher in his hometown as much of an issue.
“I don’t think that affects me fighting away or fighting at home since I know how much I’ve prepared and sacrificed,” Vera explained. “I don’t care where I fight or whether it’s away or home, I’m going to beat you and I’m ready. I’ve trained very hard and I’m not going to let anyone get in the way of my dreams and my goals, and I’m sure I’m going to finish him.”