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Marlon Vera of Ecuador prepares to fight Rob Font in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 30, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Marlon Vera Keeps His Foot On The Gas

Riding An Epic 4-Fight Winning Streak, Marlon "Chito" Vera Doesn't Mind Taking The Long, Hard Road To A Title Shot

With a stellar four-fight run that has seen him defeat Davey Grant, Frankie Edgar, Rob Font and Dominick Cruz, finish half of those wins, earn four post-fight bonuses and rise to the number three spot in the bantamweight rankings, Marlon Vera didn’t need to take on another killer in number five-ranked Cory Sandhagen.

But that’s exactly what he’s doing in the five-round UFC Fight Night main event in San Antonio this Saturday. And the way “Chito” sees it, if he can’t beat Sandhagen, he doesn’t deserve a title shot.

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“That's my thought process if you want to be a real champ, not just a guy that gets there through an easy route and loses the belt soon,” he said. “And I can name guys that got there quickly, but they also got out of there quickly. Back in the day, when Anderson (Silva), GSP (Georges St-Pierre), Jose Aldo and Demetrious Johnson became champions, they fought from number 15 to number one, and they beat them. By the time they won the championship, no one could beat those guys. I'm like those guys, and I'm going to be like those guys because I'm fighting everybody and I'm fighting anybody. I believe in myself because I'm ready, because I'm that good and because I don't give a f**k. You have to be like that. You have to be the guy that just says, bring it. And by the time I get the belt, good luck taking that away from me.”

Marlon Vera Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen
Marlon Vera Fight Week Interview | UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen

Bold words, but ones Vera is backing up with his fists. In addition to the aforementioned quartet of wins, he’s defeated a host of quality contenders, including Sean O’Malley, since he joined the roster in 2014, and he’s doing what you want to see a fighter do as the stakes get higher – he’s getting better. And in his third consecutive headlining gig, he’s got another tough challenge in former title challenger Cory Sandhagen. It was a bout scheduled to take place last month in Las Vegas but was moved to Texas, a minor inconvenience for Vera, but one he was willing to make.

“I was f**king ready to go last week,” he said after the postponement. “My weight was low. I was ready in all matters - mentally, physically - and I was firing on all cylinders. But they asked me about it, and I said, ‘Let's do it. Let's take the bigger, brighter stage.’ At the end of the day, you’ve always got to see the brighter side of things. It’s more time, maybe a little more time to do things better, get a little sharper, get a little busier. And I stayed training. I stayed thinking this is going to be the hardest fight of my life, like always, so I can get out of the bed motivated and ready to go.”

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Motivation has never been an issue for the 30-year-old. Whether it was getting surgery for his oldest daughter, providing a better life for her and her two siblings, as well as his wife, it’s always been about family for the Ecuador native. In the process, he’s become one of the best bantamweights in the world, and while he could have taken his foot off the gas a bit after his knockout of Cruz last summer and waited for a world title shot, Vera is a smart businessman, as well as a heck of a fighter, so he told the UFC to bring on all comers. He was ready.

Marlon Vera of Ecuador punches Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pechanga Arena on August 13, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Marlon Vera of Ecuador punches Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pechanga Arena on August 13, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“That's an option I had,” Vera said when asked about waiting for his crack at the belt. “And when you get to the top, that's what you’ve got; you’ve got options. You can say, I'm going to sit around, I don't need another tough guy and I don't want to put miles on myself. But I think as a businessman; if I sit around a year, people will forget about you. Brands will forget about you on the business side of it. You’ve got to be active and I'm just entering to my prime. So why not? Why not take those fights right now? Why not keep making my name bigger right now? If you see the list of guys I have fought, it's pretty much Murderers Row.”

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That’s life in the most competitive division in the UFC, yet Vera has navigated it like a true pro. Along the way, he’s kept it real and kept it entertaining, building himself a sizeable fanbase. It’s a true MMA success story that hasn’t even reached its height yet. And that’s why Vera is not taking his foot off the gas. He may be happy with the way things have gone thus far, but he’s not content. Far from it.

Marlon 'Chito' Vera Sacrifices For Success
Marlon 'Chito' Vera Sacrifices For Success

“To maintain this, it's not easy,” Vera said. “To keep it up is not easy. I just don't know how people can wake up thinking, ‘Oh, I'm good enough. I don't need to train. I'm going to go get breakfast, lay down, maybe train next week.’ I wake up thinking every day somebody might f**king kick my ass, make my family cry, make me all bloody. My mother will probably have a semi heart attack. My wife will cry. My kids will be like, ‘Wow, what happened with daddy?’ Just thinking that that's a possibility, I go to the gym every day and I push myself and I always think about one thing - that you can always push a little more. I wake up very, very hungry every time. We always want more as human beings; we always want better. And, for me, in fighting, this is another thing that keeps me hungry; even if you do everything and you do everything properly, chances of failure are high. Success will never be guaranteed. So that's why I wake up every morning ready to go.” 

On Saturday morning, he’ll get up the same way…ready to go.

“It is a tough challenge ahead of me, but I’ve seen a lot of tough things in front of me in the past,” he said. “So it's just another guy that I'm going to put it through, go through him, break him. And I'll keep paving my way to the title shot.”

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen took place live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass