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For Guido Cannetti, UFC Argentina is opportunity to appreciate past, ‘catapult’ into future

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Rivas vs Cannetti
Guido Cannetti faces Marlon Vera at UFC Argentina.
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Guido Cannetti has a big night ahead at UFC Argentina.

The Argentine, who turns 39 next month, will be welcoming fellow bantamweight Marlon Vera to his home city of Buenos Aires. Cannetti will fight Vera in a three-round contest that’s set to be featured as part of the UFC Argentina main card headlined by welterweight contenders Santiago Ponzinibbio and Neil Magny.

Saturday’s event will mark the UFC’s first visit to Argentina. It’s a significant moment for Latin American MMA and a career milestone for Cannetti, who’s been competing in combat sports out of Buenos Aires for the last 15 years.

“It was impossible to imagine the UFC was going to come here, that I was going to be fighting on the main card, and everything else that has gone down,” Cannetti said speaking with MMA Fighting.

“I always dreamed of this. This is a dream that came true. Picturing this four, five, six years ago, it was impossible for me to make it to the UFC, but it happened, and I made it to the UFC. And I thought I’d like to stay a while in the UFC and be able to win fights and be in the promotion. And with everything I’ve been through, with all the difficulties that appeared, the company is now in my country and I’m coming off a win in Chile. My head is in the right place, my cardio is much better, and I’m physically in tip-top shape, all those things make me very happy and everything has worked out.

“All the bad things that happened in my career were learning experiences so I can be enjoying this today. I’m coming off a very controversial fight in Chile, so now I’m fighting in my country and getting all the support. It’s something incredible.”

Cannetti began his martial arts career in 2003 competing in kickboxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, and MMA bouts. The last time “Ninja” fought on home soil was six years ago, and the feeling of gearing up for a home brawl feels new in many ways.

“It does feel different, but that’s also because I haven’t fought in Argentina in six years, so I’m not really accustomed to people cheering me,” Cannetti said, laughing. “But it’s been great to get cheered on, seeing my kids, they were in the open workout, being able to share with my kids and wife, and being home it’s a happiness that’s hard to explain, it’s unique.

“Seeing everyone supporting me and seeing how far I’ve gone in my career feels like I’m living a dream.”

For this bout Cannetti did his usual training camp. He began preparing out of his gym in Buenos Aires — Our Town MMA — and then finished off the last five weeks in California with Team Alpha Male.

Cannetti is facing no stranger in “Chito” Vera. The two were part of a developmental program sponsored by the UFC where Latin American fighters were taken to JacksonWink to develop their skills over the course of several months. Soon after that, Cannetti and Vera participated on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America back in 2014. They both competed for Team Werdum.

“We were acquaintances and friends for the moment (on TUF), he also lived with me in Albuquerque, and that’s all,” Cannetti said regarding his relation to Vera.

“He did say a couple of things that aired on TUF and I already knew that he was that way as a person. When I was fighting, he was supporting the Chilean, telling him what he needed to do. If we’re both friends, shut your mouth because you’re ruining the fight, you shouldn’t be telling one what to do so that person can beat the other.

“So when I went on top of the cage (at UFC Chile) I pointed him out and told him he was next, but to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less if it was him or somebody else. I just wanted to fight in Argentina, but they put him in so I’m coming for him.”

In the lead-up to UFC Argentina, Vera told MMA Fighting he didn’t think Cannetti would be able to keep up with him for 15 minutes, mainly due to Cannetti being 13 years older than Vera. Cannetti calls that crazy talk.

“He’s crazy, he thinks he’s really good,” Cannetti responded. “He thinks he’s the best there is and he believes it, it’s true, I know it. Over at Jacksons we all knocked him out: ‘El Diablito’ (now known as ‘Turbo,’ Alejandro Perez), me, ‘Teco’ (Jose Quiñonez), we all beat him up and he thought he was this marvelous thing and he ran into everyone.

“He has improved in recent times, but we all have, so we’re going to see. I think it’s going to be the same as always. He’s going to go in confident but then he’s going to run like he does in every fight.”

In contrast to Vera’s forecast, Cannetti says the fight will go the other way around, Vera will be the one that won’t be able to go all 15 minutes.

“I think I’m going to surprise him a lot because he doesn’t have what it takes to withstand my power, so I don’t think I’ll be going all three rounds with him on the feet.

“He might have cardio, but he’s not going to be able to take my strikes for a round. I don’t know if it goes to the second, but if he does make it, he’s not going to be able to go out to the third.

“I think two rounds of hitting him is enough for me to put him out. I already fought with Hugo Viana who’s a lot stronger and better fighter than him. I fought with the Chilean who’s a lot stronger than him, and I hit him a lot but he was able to take it. He (Vera) is not going to withstand that punishment, not a chance because he doesn’t have the strength. We’re all going to see on Saturday what he ends up doing.”

Going into UFC Argentina, Cannetti is of two minds: One that puts into perspective and encapsulates the Argentine’s body of work in professional fighting and one that looks ahead and furthers his climb of the 135-pound ladder.

“I’m going to get a win and that’s going to catapult me because ‘Chito’ is well perceived as a fighter, he’s known. Defeating him helps me and I want to go after the best fighters next and see if I go for the title in the future.”

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