UFC London marked the retirement fight for long time English MMA pioneer Brad Pickett and Marlon “Chito” Vera played spoiler for the night. Vera knocked out Pickett with a beautiful third round head kick, securing the biggest win of his career.
The night was emotional start to bottom for Pickett, who insisted on having his final fight in front of his home crowd. The fight between him and Vera was back and forth until with one minute remaining, Vera landed a brutal head kick, silencing the crowd.
Going into the third round, two judges had Pickett up 2 rounds, meaning all Brad had to do was ride the last minute of the fight to get the decision. For Vera, despite his corner expressing a sense of urgency at the end of the second round, he remained calm, allowing him to secure the finish.
“I’m pretty sure I lost the first round but in the stand up, the fight was even, we were going back and forth,” Vera explained. “He got some advantage with takedowns, he got a good takedown. My coach told me going into the third round: Hey you got to go out there and fight for your life. Fight hard because you’re not fighting against the crowd only one person so go and unleash everything you got.”
With such a closely contested battle, Vera felt had the fight gone the distance, the judges would have given Pickett the hometown nod. Having already fought in London last year and losing, Vera made sure he walked out of the O2 Arena with a different outcome.
“Probably if it went to a decision I wouldn’t have won, I’m not in my hometown and judges sometimes make the wrong decision,” Vera said. “I wasn’t thinking I have to finish but I wanted to keep fighting hard and that’s what I did.”
Vera usually belts out his signature scream in victory but he made sure to reserve all his emotions. A silenced crowd and a devastated Brad Pickett was a scene that Vera respected and didn’t want to provoke.
“If this was a regular fight and he’s just a tough guy, I would have celebrated normally as always but this was a special time so I showed respect to the crowd, to his family and to Brad as a person.”
Instead of celebrating, an appreciative Vera broke down in tears and complimented Brad. When asked if he felt any guilt playing spoiler, Vera explained that this moment was just as important for him.
“Not really,” Vera said on feeling guilty. “It’s a fight, both of us want to do damage and win but I respect him as a fighter and as the pioneer and legend that he is today. After the win, I didn’t get crazy and say stupid things in the microphone like a lot of fighters who win and say ‘Oh I want to fight Conor McGregor’ that’s bullshit for me. I just gave him the respect he deserves and after that I’m happy. My way of celebrating is to go back to the gym and keep growing.”
Prior to this fight, Vera had struggled to make his mark in the bantamweight division going 2-2. He finally got the big win versus the big name opponent that could propel him to the next step in his career.
“This is a really big moment for me. When I took this fight I was like this is the time for big things. I get this win and I take a big step in my career. I will let the division know that I can do big things.”
With just a few bumps and bruises to deal with in the aftermath of the fight, Vera is targeting July for his next fight, a month that has personal significance to him. Brian Stann will be organizing a fundraising event to raise money for Vera’s daughter and competing then would make perfect sense. His daughter suffers from a syndrome called Moebius which prevents her from smiling.
“I’d love to fight in International Fight Week, that’s a huge week for the UFC and it’s something I want to do. Vegas is like the capital for fighting and that’s what I want. Brian Stann is planning on doing a party or a meeting with the UFC stars and people have to buy tickets to hang out with the fighters. Everything will be donated to me and that’s amazing. That shows that there are some really good people out there.”
Vera does admit that he’s not too concerned with where he fights. After all, he’s already fought in the US, Australia and Europe in his young UFC career. Place, opponent, rankings all don’t matter, Chito just wants to fight.
“I really don’t care,” Vera explained. “I don’t care about rankings or numbers, I just want to put big fights and I want to win fights. Right now I want to get better and I’m down to fight anyone. It’s always exciting to fight a big name but whatever the UFC give me, I’ll be happy.”
He started his UFC journey by competing in the first season of the Ultimate Fighter Latin America back in 2014. Vera, like most of the cast spent some time at Jackson/Wink’s after the completion of the show. He then bounced around from the US and Ecuador before finally finding a home at Team Oyama in Irvine.
After being away from his family for 10 months, Vera was able to move his wife and two kids to California where he trains. The $50,000 win bonus in London will definitely help his family but Vera explains that there’s still a long way to go in his daughter’s expensive surgery.
“It’s hard to afford the surgery,” Vera explained. “It’s pretty expensive so right now my daughter is doing well. Thank God, this is not something life threatening but it’s more about giving her a smile. It’s a dream as a father; I fight because I want to be number one in my professional career, I want to be a champion some day. In my personal life, I also want to see my daughter smiling. That’s a dream for me and for my wife but that’s outside my professional career. I have one dream as a dad and one dream as a fighter.”
“I’m just blessed that I’m having all these moments in my life. All the changes I made when I was in Ecuador until today was worth it.”
Click the link below to donate and help raise money for Chito’s daughter’s surgery.