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.
Surveillance Video Shows Conor McGregor Smash Phone
In a new video released by TMZ Sports, UFC star is shown knocking a phone down and smashing it in front of the Fountainebleau hotel located in Miami, Florida.
In true McGregor fashion, he followed up the destruction of the phone by doing his famous “billionaire strut.”
McGregor got into an altercation with Ahmed Abdirzak who was following and filming McGregor with his cell phone while McGregor and his entourage were leaving the hotel.
McGregor reportedly extended his hand to offer a hand shake, only to pull it back and smack the phone out of Abdirzak’s hand and proceeding to stomp on it.
After a few stomps, McGregor picks up the phone and walks away. He was later arrested, that same day, and has been charged with felony robbery and misdemeanor criminal mischief, which could land him in prison for up to 6 years.
McGregor has pled not guilty on all charges and is scheduled for trial beginning in May.
Abdirzak filed a lawsuit against McGregor stemming from the incident, but dropped his suit after the two sides worked out a settlement.
Abdirzak was reportedly demanding north of $15,000.
INTERVIEW: John Kavanagh Talks Brave CF 13 in Belfast, Frans Mlambo’s Title Fight and SBG Ireland
Renowned head coach of SBG Ireland, John Kavanagh has helped put Irish MMA on the map. With his star student and multiple time UFC champion, Conor McGregor taking over the MMA world, the two have opened up unlimited doors for the rest of the team.
Today, Kavanagh is leading some of the younger generation to world title fights and global organisations. On June 9th, one of his promising young fighters, Frans Mlambo will get a shot at gold when he takes on Stephen Loman for the Brave Combat Federation bantamweight title.
The two met back in the promotion’s first ever show in Bahrain when Loman picked up a unanimous decision win over Mlambo. It was a learning experience for the young South African who has picked up 3 straight finishes since. Kavanagh is confident that the former IMMAF world champion, Mlambo has all the tools to become champion.
Also competing on the Brave CF 13 card from SBG Ireland, is Cian Cowley (0-1) who takes on Daniel Olejniczak (2-1-1) and Tommy Martin (6-4) who takes on Wales’ Aidan James (1-0).
I spoke to John Kavanagh on the upcoming Brave CF 13 show, Mlambo’s improvements and the team’s preparation for their upcoming bouts. Check out the interview below.
Farah Hannoun: Brave Combat Federation are making their first trip to Europe, you’ve witnessed the organization’s growth so how excited are you to see them go to Belfast?
John Kavanagh: Brave is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest MMA shows so it’s of course great to have them visit Ireland. However, I would have preferred Dublin because that’s my hometown.
Farah Hannoun: Frans Mlambo is headlining the event, with a record of 5-2, he’s practically grown up in the cage, how proud are to see him turn things around with 3 straight finishes since losing to Loman the first time?
John Kavanagh: He’s earned that title shot with exciting finishes both by submission and KO. He’s finding his way in the cage nicely now.
Farah Hannoun: What adjustments has Mlambo made since the first fight with Loman? What do you feel like went wrong the first-time round?
John Kavanagh: His grappling was too weak back then. He’s one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen and now his grappling is catching up. Frans is one of the top 135lb fighters in the world.
Farah Hannoun: Cian Cowley is set to make the walk for the second time in his pro career when he takes on Daniel Olejniczak, in light of the legal issues he’s had the misfortune of dealing with, how hard was it for him to put all that aside and focus on the fight?
John Kavanagh: Cian is very mature and focused. It’s not a problem for him to block out what’s going on outside.
Farah Hannoun: Also competing from SBG, is Tommy Martin who’s looking to bounce back when he takes on Aidan James, how’s he been looking at the gym and what can we expect from him?
John Kavanagh: Tommy is a technician. Clean striking, one of best doubles on my team and tidy on the ground. His opponent is similar, solid technician. This fight will be very interesting for those who like nice technique.
Farah Hannoun: You’ve played a massive role in the growth of Irish MMA, SBG and Conor McGregor. The impact that you and Conor have had has resulted in a lot of opportunities and a spotlight on the guys at the gym. Does the idea that people have the perception that the SBG guys get “special treatment” or extra opportunities bother you?
John Kavanagh: No, we’ve earned it 😉
Farah Hannoun: You must be really proud, bringing up a talent such as Frans from his IMMAF world champion days to now him getting a title shot at Brave CF, what are your thoughts on Frans as an individual and a fighter?
John Kavanagh: One of few 135lbs in the world with genuine 1 punch KO power. A very good singer and cook too!
Farah Hannoun: You wrote a mega successful book, Win or Learn, which is even a quote that people have been using a lot when competing in MMA. Your best-selling book was even translated to multiple languages and sold internationally which is incredible. Did you expect the book to be so successful when writing it and do you have plans on writing another one someday?
John Kavanagh: No, I thought maybe my mother would buy a few copies and that’d be it haha. I believe almost 50,000 sold worldwide and talk of a movie adaptation. It’s crazy. Maybe one more book when I’m retired.
After his impressive finish over Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, Vicente Luque eyeing Darren Till
When Luan Chagas was forced out of his fight versus Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, The UFC called Vicente Luque and he happily accepted.
He stepped in on short notice and took out one of the toughest surging welterweights in Niko Price.
He hurt Price with a counter right before locking in one of his favourite submissions, the D’arce choke. This marked Luque’s 5th win in 6 UFC outings making him one of the brightest young stars in the division.
“I wanted to go out there and have an impressive fight,” Luque said.
“I thought that was very important especially that I was coming off a 4 fight win streak then I had a loss so I wanted to keep that momentum. I think I did that and it definitely puts me back where I was before going after those top 15 guys.”
He now turns his attention to a fellow rising star, Darren Till. Till took out Cowboy Cerrone in the first round last month in Gdansk and Luque feels he would match up well with him.
“I would really like to fight Darren Till,” Luque said. “He’s a great striker and his last fight was really impressive against Cowboy. I’m a striker as well and I would love to test my striking and see who the best striker in the division is.”
And should the UFC decide to go a different direction, Luque would be content fighting anyone in the top 15. With 5 wins and 5 finishes in the division, he feels he’s earned a high ranked opponent or a big name.
“I want a top 15 opponent for sure but if they don’t give me that I’ll be looking for someone with a big name,” Luque said. “Guys like Alan Jouban who already have a name and everybody knows who they are. Those are the guys that I want to be fighting.”
Another name Luque is interested in is Colby Covington who fought on the same card as him. Covington took out former title challenger Demian Maia and proceeded to cut a heavy promo, blasting the Brazilian crowd.
Covington’s harsh and controversial comments towards Brazil didn’t sit well for Luque who sees multiple benefits of fighting him.
“I definitely think that was disrespectful not only to Brazilians but to anybody that watches MMA,” Luque said. “I don’t think that’s the posture of an athlete. I don’t take it personally but I would love to fight him no matter what whether he was disrespectful or not because he’s a top contender.”
The welterweight division is arguably the most talked about division. With rising stars such as Darren Till, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Mike Perry, Luque feels like his name should be thrown in the mix too.
“I think I’m getting up there and slowly getting my spot. I’m having good fights and I know what I’m capable of and that’s what I’m trying to show. I’m doing my thing and I feel that my fights speak for themselves.”
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