Marlon Vera was able to recently win a “title”. It wasn’t a UFC one, but a life one.
The 25-year-old UFC bantamweight was finally able to pay for his daughter’s costly surgery after years of hard work and a number of fights in the UFC that had him save enough money to cover the costs of the procedure.
Vera’s 7-year-old daughter, Ana Paula, suffered from Moebius syndrome – a rare neurological condition that affects the muscles that control facial expression. One of Vera’s main life goals was to pay the $50,000 surgery needed to see her daughter smile. “Chito” accomplished that in June.
“That was like a title I won, that was a victory for me,” Vera told MMA Fighting. “I’m now focused on winning this fight 100 percent for me, and so I can give the best to her.
“I have one less thing to worry about. I achieved something and now I’m going for other goals: Buying a house, establishing myself more here in United States, and I’m always looking to achieve the next goal. You win one title and then you got to go and go after the next one.”
The surgery was a success and Ana Paula has been steadily recovering since. Vera expects his daughter to be “100 percent” in the next few months.
With his daughters situation in the rear-view mirror, Vera is now beginning to focus on knocking out new goals. But to continue to do that, the Ecuadorian will have to get by Wuliji Buren at Saturday’s UFC 227 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Having fought experienced veterans in John Lineker and Douglas Silva de Andrade in his last two UFC outings, this upcoming bout with Buren may seem like a manageable task for “Chito”. Yet, Vera is not letting the step down in competition change his winning mind set.
“You can say it’s a step back in competition, but at the end of the day, a fight is a fight,” Vera explained. “All fights are tough and you have to be ready for anything. I can’t ask for more, I’m coming off two loses, but at the end of the day, it’s still a fight in the UFC. It’s a winnable fight, but I can’t get overconfident and think it’s going to be easy because when you think like that bad things can happen.
“So I’ve prepared the best way I can and I’m going to go out there to finish. I’m not going to give him the chance of him even thinking he can win the fight.”
Although Vera has new achievements in mind, his hunger and determination remain the same. For this short-notice UFC 227 fight, Vera changed things up in his preparation to reach the new levels he’s set out to get to.
“I did change some things,” Vera said. “I trained a little bit in TJ Dillashaw’s camp. I’m still with Team Oyama, and I did most of my camp there, but I did make a few changes. I added the wrestling and I added some jiujitsu training with the Medes brothers at Art of Jiu-jitsu and little by little I’ve been improving. Oyama helped me out a lot too and we’re ready to win.”
Vera made the connection with the UFC bantamweight champion Dillashaw, who defends his belt in the main event of the card against Cody Garbrandt, though the champ’s wrestling coach. And he knew Dillashaw’s wrestling coach through Ian McCall. Vera contacted him, they figured out price, and they got to work. That’s how Vera was able to take part in Dillashaw’s camp.
Training with the champion of his division did not only expose Vera to new techniques and things to learn, but also made him realize he’s not far from the top of the UFC’s 135-pound weight class.
“I really don’t think so,” said Vera regarding him being far from the top. “Although I lost my last two fights, they were close fights that I lost by decision and I never was close to being finished. If anything, I was the closest to finish the fights with my kicks and punches, I was just missing scoring more points, but the reality is that my confidence and my motivation continues. I still think that I’m at the top of the division and these losses have helped me grow a more than when I was winning. The changes have been for good.”