Even after logging 22 hours on an airplane between the U.S. and England, Marvin Vettori was ready to tack on more frequent flier miles if it meant he could fight.
The 26-year-old middleweight was one of many fighters left in the lurch by the coronavirus pandemic. Scheduled to fight Marvin Vettori at UFC London, Vettori found out at the last minute that the promotion was scrambling to save the card by moving it to the U.S.
“I just flew out on Friday to London,” Vettori explained in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I wanted to go out a little bit early to acclimate and everything with the time change and all that. Went out, got a workout in, and the situation was already a little bit weird. London was fine and less alarming than everywhere else, at least for the government and stuff. I thought [the fight] should be happening.
“I flew out, got a workout in, went to sleep, and at 3 a.m. my nutritionist wakes me up and says, ‘[President Donald] Trump just put up a travel ban and [UFC President] Dana [White] released a video saying UFC London is moved to the U.S.,’ so the fight is basically off here.”
After hearing White’s declaration, Vettori hopped on a plane bound for the United States. He had to go without one of his coaches, who was not allowed into the country because of a recent trip to Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In 48 hours, I’ve been 22 hours on a f*cking plane,” he said. “Got back, and obviously I’m a little confused. I’m like the only thing I can actually control is I’ve got to stay ready. I’ve got to do whatever is on my schedule. I’ve got to train and make sure if there is an opportunity, I’m going to go out and f*cking smash that.”
Once he landed, Vettori got right back to training in anticipation his fight would soon find a new location. Unfortunately, one day later, he got even more bad news.
“I wake up in the morning, I go to train,” he said. “Then I see all these guys are being a bunch of crybabies like Tyron Woodley turning down fights – ‘Oh, I want to fight’ – but he’s turning down fights all over the place. Leon Edwards – ‘Oh I got this, I got that, I can’t go.’ A whole bunch of that. I see the UFC trying to make up the card, trying to look for fights. I was hoping. I was hoping somehow it happens, but there was a high level of uncertainty. I come out from my morning session, and I see the news where the fight is off and it’s not going to happen; all the events are shifted back.”
To make matters worse, Vettori saw a few of the fighters originally scheduled to compete at UFC London were instead shifted to Cage Warriors 113, which initially was set for London but was later moved behind closed doors in nearby Manchester.
One of the fighters included in the move was Darren Stewart, who Vettori expected to meet in London. After hearing Stewart was still fighting, Vettori immediately asked if he could fly halfway across the world for the third time in a matter of days just so he could have the opportunity to fight.
“I’m like, ‘Fly me back! I’ll fight him,’” Vettori said. “I asked them to fly me back. I’ll fight this guy. I’ll make weight. Worst case scenario, they block me and I go back to Italy. I’m not worried about not being able to come back. Somehow make it happen, but they’re like, ‘At this stage it’s not possible.’ So it’s been a whole mess.
“Everything happened so quickly. It’s one of those things, we didn’t know. The fight got cancelled, and the UFC isn’t happening. Who the f*ck could predict that the UFC would move two fights from UFC to Cage Warriors?”
The fight being cancelled was bad enough. But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic putting future cards in doubt, Vettori is even more upset, because now he’s facing a real unknown with his career.
After rattling off two wins in a row following a razor-close split decision loss to reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, Vettori was anxious to build some momentum so he could hopefully work his way back to another fight against “The Last Stylebender.”
Now he’s working out and training with no idea of when he’ll actually fight again.
“It’s frustrating,” Vettori said. “I really did everything in my power to make this fight happen. I was super ready. It pisses me off. I was watching that bullsh*t title fight in my division and watching those two play touch-butt with each other. It is disappointing.
“I already beat [Israel Adesanya] but to get another chance to face that guy, I need to fight and they’re not letting me for some reason. I want my opportunity to go through these guys. But they don’t let me fight.”
Beyond not being able to advance his career, Vettori was also hoping to send a message of inspiration back to his native Italy where the coronavirus has claimed more than 4,000 lives since the outbreak started.
“It’s f*cking frustrating for sure,” Vettori said. “Everybody was messaging me from Italy — ‘the only good thing is watching you fight’ — and it would have been great to send a message of resiliency and getting my hand raised for all the Italians in the struggle. But that didn’t happen.”
Now that reality has set in that he’s not fighting this weekend, Vettori is anxious to get back to work as soon as the UFC begins scheduling cards again. He’s not sure who he’ll fight, or when it will happen, but Vettori is staying ready, hoping to receive some good news from the UFC in the very near future.
“I could easily just let it completely go and let myself off the hook and be like f*ck it whatever,” Vettori said. “I’m the best in the world in what I do. I will stay ready to go. I’m just going to stay ready like I have a fight. I’m a straight savage. I don’t give a f*ck about uncertainty or all of that. I asked this morning to fly me out, I’ll still fight. I’ll make weight, I’ll still fight, and the UFC told me at this stage it’s not possible.
“I’ll stay ready. Better to stay ready for something that doesn’t happen than not be ready for an occasion that you could have.”