Marvin Vettori is steadily making his way up the middleweight rankings and if he makes it to the top, he hopes Israel Adesanya is waiting for him.
The two first fought at a UFC on FOX event in April 2018, with Adesanya taking a split nod over Vettori. Since then, Adesanya has won seven more fights and become the middleweight champion of the world. Vettori is also unbeaten since losing to Adesanya, having beaten his last three opponents.
Vettori now headlines UFC Vegas 16 opposite Jack Hermansson this Saturday as a short-notice replacement. A win guarantees him a top-10 spot in the UFC’s official rankings, but the championship picture has become murky with Adesanya in talks to move up a division and challenge light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Asked about Adesanya’s pursuit of dual-champion glory, Vettori disapproved.
“It’s bullsh*t,” Vettori said at a virtual media day on Thursday. “It’s kind of bullsh*t. I think this guy just thinks he’s too much, he just thinks like he can do whatever he wants. To me, he still didn’t prove much. His last fight was good, but it was mainly like [Paulo] Costa beat himself going into that fight. The fight before, [Adesanya] he barely-Through my eyes, was basically one of the worst title fights ever and he basically lost against Yoel Romero. It didn’t really prove much, but the media are all over him.
“The main thing, to be honest, I think there’s not much great, hungry opposition in the top-5 at the moment. We’ve got Robert Whittaker just coming out of a win with Jared Cannonier saying that he’s interested, but really not, he’s just looking forward to enjoying Christmas, which is totally understandable. But man, it was like October, November, of course you can enjoy, but at the same time if you’re really about getting the title back you should be hungry for it. The No. 1 contender’s not that hungry anymore and strong, real, hungry opposition is not there, and after Saturday there will be. He better stay and not play around at light heavyweight, this and that… stay and face me.”
Vettori has already vanquished one rival, submitting Karl Roberson this past June to settle a grudge that developed due to Roberson withdrawing from their first scheduled meeting and then badly missing weight for the second. It was the second finish of Vettori’s UFC career and his first since his debut for the promotion in August 2016.
The 27-year-old Italian also current win streak also includes Andrew Sanchez and Cezar Ferreira, and he believes that he’s evolved enough since the first Adesanya fight to upset “The Last Stylebender” in a rematch.
“I think I’ll beat him,” Vettori said. “I’ll overwhelm him. These guys go in and they underestimate him somehow or they get over their heads to go in overconfident. Adesanya is solid. You have to pressure him in the right way and I learned so much. I watched that fight not too long ago and I realized at that time I didn’t know so much of what he knew, especially in the standup, and I still did so well just by instinct. Now that I see everything that he’s doing and I’ve been studying him for a long time, it’s going to be a whole different game now.
“Even in the standup, I know the things that he’s gonna try to do and I don’t know if he’s gonna know what I’m gonna try to do, but I definitely can see whatever he’s trying to do and plus I have a massive advantage with the grappling. I think it’s going to be a completely different fight.”
With Adesanya’s middleweight future uncertain for now, it’s likely that Vettori will have to face one or two other contenders before getting a title shot even with a victory over Hermansson on Saturday. That list could include the likes of Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier, or Paulo Costa.
At the moment, he favors a matchup with Costa, the most recent challenger to Adesanya’s throne.
“I think Costa is a very good matchup for me,” Vettori said. “But either of them, it’s good, I like all of them.”