Check out the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America on UFC FIGHT PASS on Tuesday at 12am ET
If you stay ready you don't have to get ready.
Those are wise words to live by for all the competitors that join The Ultimate Fighter. For nearly a decade, every season has featured some unfortunate circumstances where a fighter gets injured or is forced to leave the show, and in their place steps a teammate or potentially someone from the opposite side to replace them.
It's a particularly hard situation going into the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America as Team Werdum deals with a lot of uncertainty surrounding bantamweight Marlon Vera after he started developing sores and scabs all over his body prior to his scheduled fight against Team Velasquez competitor Alejandro Perez. Vera has been one of the most interesting fighters to follow this season on The Ultimate Fighter, both due to his highlight reel upkick knockout over Henry Briones as well as the personal story of why he's doing the reality show in the first place.
Vera's daughter was stricken with a rare nerve disease that doesn't allow her to smile. It's been heartbreaking to hear Vera talk all season long about his only desire to win the show being so he can provide the money to pay for his daughter's surgery so she could be able to smile for the first time in her life. If there's been a fighter to root for this year, Vera is definitely the one pulling at the heart strings.
Still, Vera's condition has forced him to deal with the reality that his time in the competition may be coming to an end. His sickness was already affecting him a week ago, and this week everything comes to a head as a decision is made on whether or not he'll be allowed to continue on in the competition. Skin afflictions like the one Vera showed a week ago can be nasty business if not treated properly. It's even worse if it happens to be something contagious. There's a laundry list of fighters who have been forced out of fights due to staph infections over the years. Many others like welterweight Carlos Condit found out the hard way that something serious like a staph infection can land you in the hospital for days at a time with a dangerous threat to long term health.
Needless to say, Vera will be treated with kid gloves until he receives proper medical clearance to determine whether or not he'll be able to compete this week.
Vera's sickness brings up an even harder scenario for Team Werdum as they prepare for the semifinal fights. While the team wants to root on one of the fighters who picked up a win in the preliminary round, the other three bantamweights are now on notice that if he can't continue they may get the call to return to the competition.
Bentley Syler, Fredy Serrano and Guido Cannetti all lost in opening round matchups, and there's little doubt that all three would jump at the chance for a second shot in this tournament. Syler is probably the only candidate unavailable considering he suffered a loss by TKO in his first bout, and due to medical restrictions would not likely be able to return this soon. Then again, he did have the first fight of the entire competition and at this point the show is entering into the fifth and sixth weeks that the fighters have been living in the house.
The most likely candidate to replace Vera should he be unable to continue is Guido Cannetti, who most agree was robbed in his opening round fight against Mexican competitor Marco Beltran. Cannetti was penalized a point during the fight, with Beltran and the judges ultimately scoring the fight as a majority decision for the Mexican although no one in the gym - even coach Cain Velasquez - agreed with the call. Guido still hasn't let go of the loss to Beltran either and that will also become an issue on the upcoming episode, but the reality is that he's still fired up and ready to go again.
If Vera is knocked out and deemed medically unable to continue, Cannetti would certainly volunteer for a chance at redemption.
While this entire situation lands on Team Werdum's shoulders, the uncertainty about who is fighting also affects Team Velasquez bantamweight Alejandro Perez. He's scheduled to take on Vera, but he has to know what's going on at this point and that he could be facing a completely different fighter by the time he steps into the Octagon.
Perez showed in his first fight against Olympic wrestler Fredy Serrano that he's got a ton of heart and determination, not to mention a gas tank that helped him push for all three rounds in his last bout. It was a close bout ultimately determined on the judges' scorecards, but Perez made the most of the victory and now he stands on the precipice of punching his ticket to the finale with one more win.
Will he get to face Milton Vera or will he end up taking on a last minute replacement? The only way to know for sure is to watch The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America this week, only on UFC FIGHT PASS.