Marvin Vettori isn’t afraid to cut to the chase.
“The Italian Dream” has been a mainstay amongst the middleweight elite for years, and while that hasn’t changed one bit, defeats to former champions Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker forced Vettori to embrace a reset on his run back to a title shot.
Sitting at No. 4 in the middleweight rankings, Vettori knows that after a loss, he has to defend his spot in the top and reignite his winning streak.
“The middleweight division is so open right now. I’m definitely right there. I’m the youngest in the Top 5 and I’m hungry and I’m motivated,” Vettori told UFC.com. “When the occasion [for a big fight] is there, I will rise for it. I will keep winning against everybody that they’ll put in front of me. I’ll take it fight by fight. For now, the task is to beat Roman Dolidze.”
Vettori and Dolidze will tangle at UFC 286: Edwards vs Usman 3, which will take place in London. It’s no secret that Dolidze has been on an absolute tear and his confidence is at an all-time high heading into his first Top 5 matchup.
And that confidence is justified.
Dolidze has won four straight, with three straight finishes that earned him Performance of the Night bonuses. Those wins came against Laureano Staropoli, Kyle Daukaus, Phil Hawes, and Jack Hermansson, with the win over Hermansson coming on short notice, providing Dolidze’s ticket into the middleweight rankings.
Vettori was a bit surprised that Dolidze accepted the fight considering the fact they had trained together a few times, have the same management, and have a close mutual friend in Giga Chikadze.
But Vettori isn’t the type of guy to back down from a challenge.
“It didn’t take too long for my mind to change. At the end of the day, somebody challenges you and I’m not the type of guy who shies away from it. If he wants to do it, let’s do it,” Vettori said. “Because of the training we got together I thought he would have been a bit smarter. But then again, training is not like fighting and I’m the first to say that.
“I’ll shut him off in so many ways that he won’t be able to express himself. It’s going to be one of those fights where after, he’ll say, ‘I didn’t feel like myself’ or ‘I was off.’ I think that’s the proof of facing a superior fighter. I won’t let him bring the best out of himself.”
Vettori knows Dolidze is a tough opponent, and he isn’t overlooking him. He’s been impressed with Dolidze’s work, especially in the jiu jitsu department.
“He’s a sniper. I’m not underestimating him at all. He was getting pieced up by Jack Hermansson but Hermansson fell into being too arrogant, in a sense, especially with his top game. This guy has some jiu jitsu, for sure, and off his back, for sure,” Vettori said. “If you think he’s just like any other fighter on his back, you’re making a big mistake, I think. If he gets a position where he wants to be, he fights like he’s fighting for his life. That’s how you fight when you catch a position you like to be in.”
Vettori has made a living of shutting down opponents and preventing them from fighting their fight. He’s done it since he joined the UFC in 2016 and believes if he can add to the recipe that got him here, he’ll end up fighting for the middleweight belt again someday.
“I just keep working and refining a lot of areas of my game, just keep doing me,” Vettori said. “I just think that I’m going to establish myself as one of the best at the moment in the middleweight division. I’m going to show everyone that I’m not going anywhere and that I’m ready to take on another title run.”
“I know I have to take the long route again, I guess, to get to the title shot again. I pretty much already fought everybody in the Top 5, so I feel like I have to go back a little bit. Even though I’m still in the Top 5, I still have to take the longer route.”
Vettori is focused on the journey, not the destination.
And he has no doubt he’ll make it back.