Even after the biggest win of his career, Marlon Vera isn’t being picky about his next fight.
Vera demolished top-ranked bantamweight Rob Font this past weekend in the main event of UFC Vegas 53 to vault into the top five of the UFC’s 135-pound rankings. While the performance inched Vera closer to title contention than he’s been in his nine-year UFC career, it also didn’t change his “anyone, anywhere” approach toward the fight game.
When asked Monday on The MMA Hour regarding a potential next step, Vera expressed an eagerness to resolve unfinished business with a man ranked below him, the same man who Vera said refused to fight him due to his rankings in the past: Former champ Dominick Cruz.
“Before, in the 10 times he declined to fight me — I’m not calling you a p****, but he declined a couple times in the past — he was always talking, he wanted to fight [opponents who were] above him [in the rankings]. Guess what? I’m above you right now, motherf***er. So now we can go. Now we can go,” Vera said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“They tried to make it when I lost to [Jose] Aldo [in late 2020]. I was I think [ranked] 14 or 15 back then. ... Then they tried to make it before the [Frankie] Edgar fight [in late 2021], I was No. 13 or 11, he was like, ‘No, no, too low. Blah, blah, blah. I need somebody that pushes me to the belt.’ I think we’re going to be No. 5 [now], we’re going to be pushing to the belt, homie. So the word is out there: If you want it, come get it. Right here.”
Vera, 29, has been impressive in his three-fight win streak over Font, Davey Grant, and Edgar, the last of whom Vera finished in highlight-reel fashion. It’s the continuation of an evolution that has become impossible to ignore. A product of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, “Chito” struggled early in his octagon career, stringing together a middling 4-4 record in his first eight UFC bouts, before turning things around to go 9-2 in his past 11 appearances.
One of the only bantamweights to defeat Vera during his recent upswing has been Jose Aldo. Vera called out Aldo for a rematch in the aftermath of his win at UFC Vegas 53, and although the Cruz fight also remains on his radar, Aldo would still be Vera’s top choice.
“Since that was a close fight, I feel they could make it happen,” Vera said of the former two-time UFC featherweight champion. “That could be easily a title eliminator.
“Former champ against me. He beat me. Back then, probably, people were like, ‘Oh, see, he’s not ready.’ Well, then I went back to the drawing board, kicked three asses, come back and now it’s like ... you’ve got to prove you belong, now I’m here. I would love that fight. It’s something that me, personally, I would love to take that one back, so I hope I can get it.”
That being said, Vera made it clear that he also isn’t being finicky about who he fights next.
When asked about another much-discussed matchup against a different top bantamweight contender, Cory Sandhagen, “Chito” didn’t mince words.
“He can get it too,” Vera said. “We were supposed to main event February something and he wasn’t available. I think he was hurt — he seems to be a f***ing real one, so I can’t talk s*** if I’m not sure. I’m sure about Cruz saying he wants something bigger. With Sandhagen, I don’t know what happened. And if we’re talking about anybody, [Petr] Yan called me out too. So Yan, you can come get it too. Anytime, any month. So, bro, I’m not picky. I’m not the type of guy who [says], ‘OK, out of these five guys, who is the most winnable?’ I don’t think like that. I train too hard to think like that. ... So any of those guys, we can talk. Anyone.”
If it wasn’t clear already, no one is safe with Vera poised to be a major player in the UFC bantamweight division.
“How old are you, motherf***er? Do you have hair on your f***ing balls? Act like a f***ing man,” Vera said in response to Sterling.
“The guy’s a little bit of a b****.”