The true foundation of Ecuadorian mixed martial arts is being built in the present by the likes of Marlon “Chito” Vera and Michael Morales.
Although, Rudyard Moncayo was the first Ecuadorian to fight in the UFC, his career was short-lived. Moncayo’s only UFC appearance came back at UFC 6 where he was defeated by Patrick Smith in just 68 seconds by rear naked choke.
“Chito” Vera and Morales, as the second and third Ecuadorians to showcase their skills in the Octagon, know they carry the torch for the next generation of fighters down on the equator.
Vera has posted a 12-6 record since stepping into the Octagon for the first time back in 2014. He was the first Ecuadorian to get a win in the UFC and he’s on one of the best runs of his career. Vera’s stunning front kick knockout win over Frankie Edgar helped him secure his first UFC main event, a crucial bantamweight showdown with Rob Font that could push him into title contention.
The extra media attention will likely help put Ecuadorian MMA in a spotlight like it’s never been before and could inspire other fighters to pursue the UFC from the South American country.
“It’s getting big,” Vera told UFC.com. “With my presence and with my success it’s bringing more Ecuadorians into the game. I just think the more the better. I don’t want to be the only guy.”
Vera’s rise throughout his eight years in the UFC already changed, inspiring 22-year-old Michael Morales to chase his own dreams in MMA.
Morales made an immediate splash on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021 and earned a contract to the UFC. The welterweight prospect would go on to make his debut against a well-respected opponent in Trevin Giles at UFC 270. His debut was an absolute homerun, as Morales was able to knock Giles out in the first round of the fight.
After the fight, Morales was treated like a king upon returning home to his hometown of Pasaje, Ecuador. He received the key to the city and had a police escort as people lined the streets. It’s been a beautiful journey thus far for Morales and it’s only the beginning for a young fighter with his talents.
For Vera, he knows he can add another chapter in his legacy by beating Font at UFC Fight Night: Font vs Vera. Being in the UFC is one thing, winning UFC fights is another, but by winning a main event and solidifying yourself as one of the best on the planet, Vera could truly break through and become a superstar.
“I would love to bring a show to Ecuador, and I believe a great win this weekend will probably get me closer to that. I would love to headline in Ecuador,” Vera said. “I think that would be epic and that would make history. One day it will happen. We will have a UFC event in Ecuador, and I’ll headline it.”
Both Vera and Morales understand that they are the role models for aspiring fighters back home, and each walk to the Octagon is an opportunity to pave the path for others to follow in their footsteps.
“Every time I step into this Octagon, I know I have a lot of responsibility but, at the same time, I like that,” Vera said. “I like to have the pressure. It keeps me honest.”
Well the honest truth is that as long as fighters like Vera and Morales are at the helm, the future of Ecuadorian MMA is in good hands.
UFC Fight Night: Font vs Vera, took place on Saturday, April 30, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!