For quite some time now, Marvin Vettori, a 27-year-old Italian middleweight with a record of 15-4-1, has been calling for a big fight. And on Saturday night, “The Italian Dream” will get the opportunity he’s been seeking, as he’s set to take on No. 4-ranked Jack “The Joker” Hermansson in the main event of UFC on ESPN 19 from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
It wasn’t always supposed to be this way, however, as Vettori was actually preparing to face Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 256 on Dec. 12. But after Hermansson had multiple opponents fall through, an opportunity arose.
“I was training last Friday night, and I saw three or four missed calls from my manager, Ali, and a message that said, ‘Call me right away,’” Vettori told MMAJunkie. “I’m always tripping out when he calls me that many times. A lot of times, it’s bad news. Right away, I called him, and he said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a great opportunity.’”
Regardless of how the opportunity came about, it’s one that Vettori certainly isn’t taking lightly, as a win over an established contender like Hermansson would undoubtedly vault him up the 185-pound rankings.
“I’m super happy,” he said. “My whole journey comes down to an opportunity like this. It’s not a title fight, but this will get me higher ranked and right there in the mix. It comes down to opportunities, and I live for an opportunity like this, so I’m super happy.”
While it sometimes appears as if Vettori isn’t happy with the attention he’s received as of late, there’s no denying his recent success. A winner of three-straight, “The Italian Dream” has picked up victories over the likes of Cezar Ferreira, Andrew Sanchez, and Karl Roberson since dropping a split-decision loss to current champion Israel Adesanya in 2018.
In “The Joker”, however, Vettori will be taking on one of the stiffest tests of his career, as Hermansson is both skilled and experienced against high-level competition. He’s won five of his last six fights, for example, picking up victories over David Branch, “Jacare”, and Kelvin Gastelum while dropping a TKO defeat to Jared Cannonier last year.
Ultimately, it’s unlikely that this fight will be an easy one for Marvin Vettori regardless of the outcome. At the same time, however, it not only seems like he’s well aware of that but also that he’s expecting it.
“You’ll see a high energy fight,” Vettori said. “I watched his last few fights that were five-fives, and he comes out pretty high energy. He doesn’t really care about managing his energy. By nature, I come out very intensively, very high energy. So I think from the get-go, it will be a back-and-forth fight. The more the fight will go on, I’ll be too much for him, I think. You’ll see me take over with every minute that goes by. Then an occasion will rise, and I’ll take it.
“I expect him to come out hard. He will come out hard, and I will come out hard, and I’ll be ready for war. I expect nothing less. It’s going to be a good fight.”
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.