Marlon Vera has a couple of theories as to why Henry Cejudo is coming back.
Cejudo returns from a three-year hiatus this May to challenge Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight championship at UFC 288, a booking that sees the former two-division titleholder leapfrogging over the rest of the 135-pound roster — including Vera, who currently sits at No. 6 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.
Asked for his thoughts on the situation, “Chito” offered a sympathetic and playful response.
“He’s broke,” Vera told reporters ahead of UFC San Antonio. “What’s the point of coming back when you retire on top? You come back because you either need attention and you miss that thing or you need money.
“He’s a little guy, they need attention.”
Vera has won four straight fights and put together an impressive highlight reel as he’s climbed the bantamweight ladder, but the former The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America standout has yet to earn a title shot. He fights Cory Sandhagen in the main event of UFC San Antonio on Saturday, and though the winner puts themselves closer to that championship opportunity, nothing is guaranteed.
Still, watching Cejudo waltz right back into a title shot doesn’t bother Vera one bit.
“Good for him,” Vera said. “If the UFC did that to me, I’d be f****** stoked about it. I’d be like, ‘F*** yeah, f*** the line.’ When they do things for you, it feels good, right? So if they do that for him, good for him.”
Unlike Vera, Sandhagen has competed for UFC gold. He fought Petr Yan for an interim bantamweight title at UFC 267. Sandhagen fell short on the cards in a thrilling five-round fight, but rebounded with a stoppage of Song Yadong this past September.
Both UFC San Antonio headliners are firmly in the contender mix, but what exactly is on the line when Vera and Sandhagen clash?
“The way that the rankings are done, it’s really hard to predict things,” Vera said. “You’ve got [Sean] O’Malley No. 1 after he beat Yan, you’ve got Merab [Dvalishvili] No. 1 after he beat Yan. Yan wasn’t No. 1 in his last fight and you beat the guy and you go to No. 1 so it really doesn’t f****** matter. You can be No. 10 and fight for the title. It’s whatever the f*** the UFC wants to do at this point, and so I’m OK with that because I’m putting in work, I’m winning the way they want me to win, and the fans are cheering for me. There’s a reason this is in front of an arena. There’s a reason I’m fighting three main events in a row.
“I just keep making money and eventually the belt will come to me, because the harder you chase things, they might get away from you. I’m just going with the flow. I know I’m working hard, so I’m not worried about anything.”