But even though White didn’t show for Saturday’s event at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Vettori said that can be rectified with an invitation to UFC Vegas 24, host of a pivotal middleweight fight between ex-champ Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.
“I want Dana to give me a ticket for me to sit next to him to watch the fight, and that fight will say a lot,” Vettori told reporters after dominating Kevin Holland on Saturday. “But regardless, I think I’m next in line, and I deserve it. I’m next, man. Nobody has the winning streak that I have, all my opponents have been solid, and I’m next.”
The Italian-born fighter has never been shy about talking himself up. But even with a performance that wasn’t exactly must-see TV, he saw nothing that should change his status in the 185-pound division. He hopes to see the champion in the octagon by fall.
“Five wins straight, accepting anybody at any time, always showing up, always making weight, never complaining about nothing, and I just beat these guys very dominantly,” Vettori said of his case for a title shot. “I leave no doubt. The last fight I had with Adesanya was the closest fight he’s ever had, and in my eyes, I still won it. That fight has to be made again. I don’t think Robert Whittaker is that hungry.”
Both Gastelum and Whittaker have been defeated by current champ Israel Adesanya, who’s expected to defend his title later this year after a failed bid for the light heavyweight belt at UFC 259. Vettori was the second opponent to face the champ in the octagon, and the two went three rounds in an evenly matched fight before Adesanya was declared the winner by split decision.
Vettori didn’t agree with the result, of course, and used it as an argument for advancement as he fought his way through the middleweight division. After the setback, he went on a win streak that extended to five bouts with unanimous 50-44 scores against Holland, who was a replacement for the injured Darren Till.
“He was just throwing himself in, and he was there,” Vettori said. “If you want to smother yourself and throw yourself on me, I’m going to wrestle, because I have good wrestling. At the end of the day, I’m here to win. I’m the most versatile fighter. I can do everything. If you give it to me, I’ll take it.”
Vettori wasn’t totally satisfied with his performance, given the preference among decision-makers for action-packed fights in doling out title shots. But given the alternative, he said it was the right thing to do,.
“I expect perfection,” he said. “I expect me going out and breaking the guy, and sometimes, I feel a little like I fell a little bit short of my expectations. But that short is still a great performance, a very dominant performance.
“If he [jumps into the clinch], there’s not much of a point for me to get off that and risk short elbows when I have such an advantage in the wrestling.”
And if Vettori gets that ticket, he can argue his case in person.
“I want to tell him I’m next in line,” Vettori said of White. “I’m first. I want to say, ‘Dana, look. I’m here. I’m next.’”