Marvin Vettori can’t be sure a title shot awaits him following a win in the UFC Vegas 16 main event, but he’s sending a strong message to Israel Adesanya that his days as middleweight champion are numbered.
Almost exactly one year before he first tasted gold, Adesanya engaged in arguably the closest fight of his UFC career when he battled to a split decision with Vettori in 2018. The judging that night never sat right with the 27-year-old Italian and he’s been committed to earning a rematch with Adesanya ever since.
After pleading with the UFC to give him a top-ranked opponent, Vettori made the most of the opportunity by earning a unanimous decision over Jack Hermansson this past weekend. The victory vaulted him to No. 5 in the middleweight division, and outside of former champion Robert Whittaker, Vettori is the only fighter coming off a win out of those five contenders.
Now he’s finally in striking distance for the rematch with Adesanya and he knows “The Last Stylebender” is paying attention whether he’ll admit it or not.
“It’s just so nice to prove this guy wrong,” Vettori said about Adesanya when speaking to MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “To kind of show him I’m right back in his face. I’m right here, motherf**ker. Just look in my eyes. I’m going to be your worst f**king nightmare until the day you f**king retire. That’s what it is.
“I’m sure he’s feeling it. He didn’t say nothing but he’s feeling the pressure. There’s nobody that’s coming out with such an overwhelming force in this division. With such hunger and will to become the champion. There’s nobody like this. He’s definitely feeling it. If I had to defend the belt against me, I would not feel calm, relaxed. I’d be feeling pretty stressed. I feel like he’s feeling that way, too.”
In a perfect world, Vettori would like to challenge for the title next, but he knows current plans have Adesanya moving to light heavyweight to face Jan Blachowicz with an opportunity to become a two-division champion.
While part of him understands what a win like that would do for anybody’s career, Vettori scoffs at fight happening right now when he believes there’s still plenty of work for Adesanya to handle in his own division.
“I think that he should fight the next guy in line for sure,” Vettori said. “If the UFC wants that fight, they can be 100 percent sure I’m going to answer that call. I feel like he wants to chase that greatness status, which in a sense is a little bit understandable, but he has to prove a lot of things first. One of the things he has to prove is that he’s the best. To do that, he has to fight me. Wherever he goes.
“I think in his mind, Blachowicz suits him well. Because he’s powerful but his striking can be read and he can do that. That’s why he prefers that fight plus there’s way less to lose like ‘I’m stepping up there and if it doesn’t go that way, I’m not losing my own title, I was just chasing an extra one.’ I feel like he still did nothing. He did not much.”
In his mind, Vettori hasn’t bought into the Adesanya hype as much as the rest of the world, especially when he breaks down his most notable wins as champion.
“He beat [Robert] Whittaker but I feel like Whittaker that time did not perform the way he should have,” Vettori said. “His fight with Yoel [Romero] was horrible and in a sense I even thought he lost. His last fight, [Paulo] Costa beat himself.
“I mean credit Israel still did his job. It’s not that he didn’t. He looked good but what I’m saying he looked good against a guy that was already beaten the moment he stepped into that cage.”
If Adesanya ultimately does test the waters at light heavyweight, Vettori is more than willing to face whoever the UFC throws at him in order to secure his place as the rightful No. 1 contender in the division.
Whether that means a showdown with Whittaker or a fight against Darren Till, who sits just ahead of him in the rankings, Vettori is ready to prove himself yet again.
“Now the rankings just came out. Darren Till being No. 4, it’s a joke. Really, it’s a joke,” Vettori said. “But I think that would be a great scrap if we fight. After I beat somebody like Darren Till, I’ll be the only guy with two wins in the top five and I don’t know what will happen with Whittaker, but after that, I feel I will deserve a title shot. To be honest, I’m willing to fight anybody.
“Me and Whittaker, I would love the fight. I think legitimately [Whittaker is] the best after Israel and after me, the best in the division. He’s definitely a very good test. I would love to fight him. It will be good. In terms of legitimacy, I think that will be the most fair fight but a lot of times things they go in different ways. I don’t know. It also depends on what Israel is going to decide to do and what the UFC is going to decide to do with him. Like I said, I’m not going to pick and choose. They give me a couple of these guys, I’ll be right there. I’ll be right there ready to answer and f**k them all up.”