Marvin Vittori was 2-1 when he faced Israel Adesanya in April 2018. Things didn’t go quite as well with Vittori, who lost by a split decision.
From that moment on, Vittori was unbeaten, winning five games in a row. The streak earned him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Saturday night at the UFC 263 main event, where he meets Adesanya again. But this round is for the middleweight championship.
Before joining the Octagon with “The Last Style Bender,” Vettori discusses what the judges said he hadn’t seen in just over three years, why he thinks Adesanya is overrated and whether he’s getting the proper respect for UFC 263.
(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
surprised: How excited are you as we get closer and closer to the fight?
Marvin Fituri: I’m so excited. I’m still really in the middle, but I’m looking forward to it man. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Twelve years have passed since this time, and I’d better make sure that I make the most of it and become the first Italian UFC champion.
surprised: You really don’t see many MMA events in Italy. You don’t see a lot of Italian boxers reach your level. What does it mean to be the first Italian champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship?
MV: Everything, man. It will mean everything. I just want to prove to people [and] Everyone in Italy, even if the odds are against you, we can do it. Do what you have to do every day, learn from it, and keep learning with an open mind. Things will happen day in and day out. Those days pile up, you keep getting better and you keep moving forward. That’s all that matters, one day you will be where you want to be and then you will set new goals etc.
surprised: Why do you think we don’t see a lot of Italians in combat sports?
MV: I do not know. Many Italians are getting softer to be honest. Italy has become soft for a reason. It is a difficult path to follow. There is no one to make you love the UK or America where fighting is one thing. My job is to show people that this is the best sport ever and that people should play it
surprised: At middleweight, I had the toughest fight for Israel Adesanya. What do you think of the judges’ opinion as they battle the Adesanya precedent?
MV: Log tricks. They recorded his movement, leg kicks and a few more punches than I was in the middle of the ring, and I was the aggressor most of the time, trying to push the pace of the fight. Even the important shots were so close to the difference that I was pushing against the cage, trying to free it.
surprised: What prompted your brain to run you are doing now?
MV: I knew where I belong. I knew I would be the best. This is my guide. I also knew that regardless of whether he was a hero or not, I would face him again. This was not the main reason, but the main reason was to become the best in the world. Of course I want to settle the score and prove that I am the best in the world, hit him and hit him again.
surprised: Did you see her meeting with Jan Blachovich in March?
surprised: What do you think of that fight and Adesanya’s performance?
MV: It was just confirmation of a lot of things I knew. Jane did a lot of good things. He was seeing a lot of things he had always been trying to do. He obviously won the battle in my eyes. They (UFC) tried to make Israel bigger than it is. They have tried to construct this image where it appears to be taller than it actually is. They put him in the 6-4 list. They built this picture of him. It’s basically noise. I never believed this hype. I wouldn’t even believe the hype, I believe in hard work. This is. I believe in what I do every day in training. I think no one is making any noise. Jean went to hit him. He’s like, “You want to come over here, I’m the hero here. Come here Dad, I’ll show you how it’s done. And that’s what he did. It was just confirmation of a lot of things I already knew. Saturday is going to be the same.”
surprised: Do you think it is overrated?
MV: Yes sure.
MV: (laughs) It’s good, but it’s not as good as the media and the UFC’s portrayal. At the end of the day, I don’t really care because I’m not trying to fight. I have to fight. I don’t really care. The important thing for me is to fight and to have the opportunity to prove that I am the best. That’s all I care about.
surprised: It looks like the track will be the UFC who wants to get Israel and Robert Whitaker first. Then Robert was not ready to fight and then they offered you the opportunity. Do you think everyone appreciated anything because they expected Robert to give him the toughest fight of 185?
MV: At the end of the day, I don’t care what people think. I was ready when Robert wasn’t.
surprised: What does winning on a personal level mean to you to become the UFC Middleweight Champion?
MV: It just proves that I can do everything I do more than anything else, be the best at something and prove to the world that I’m the best.
surprised: How do you win the middleweight title at UFC 263?
MV: I see him frustrated there because I took advantage of some of his mistakes. I finally finished it and made it clear that I was the best middleweight in the world.