With a revolving door of opponents stepping in and dropping out ahead of UFC 239, Marlon Vera had to shore up his mental game before he ever set foot in the octagon.
Las Vegas, NV — It’s safe to say that Marlon Vera had a hellish week or two leading up to UFC 239. After spending months preparing for ‘The Sugar Show,’ a.k.a. Sean O’Malley, Vera was greeted by the reality that O’Malley had been yanked from the event by the Nevada commission, following an atypical drug test result that is believed to stem from a previous test failure.
He was then faced with the grim reality that he might not fight at all, as opponent after opponent fell through. Until, finally, Nohelin Hernandez stepped in on very short notice.
So it’s not surprising that Vera, despite from early adversity, was simply happy to get the win, period.
“To me a win is a win,” he told reporters after the fight, including Cageside Press. “I always say I’m not looking to finish a fight, I’m just looking to win.” The victory came via second round submission. No easy feat, as Hernandez proved tough. Plus all the distractions outside the cage.
Explaining the insanity that unfolded prior to UFC 239, Vera said that “it was a little weird and crazy going into the fight. Because a week before the fight, so many changes. Let’s be real, mentally it was f*cking like a roller coaster. At some point, I told my team, ‘guys I don’t want to fight, too much has happened, maybe it’s a sign not to fight.'”
However after consulting with his family and team, and being offered Hernandez, Vera decided to stay the course. “We just went ‘you know what, it’s a fight, just go and fight.'”
Still, it meant coming in with the bare minimum in preparation for any specific opponent. “The game plan for this fight was basically come and fight. There wasn’t no specific [plan for] how to beat him. Get in front of him, put [on] a big pace, and then wear him out then finish him. But there was a lot of things coming into this fight.”
“I believe so,” Vera said when asked if this particular opponent change was the most difficult of his career, “because I feel every time it’s happening, I’m the short notice guy coming in. Which, it’s the same for both guys, because we both have to, in a small period of time, figure it out.”
“But this time, I had O’Malley four months ago. So four months I’m doing a camp for one specific guy,” he pointed out. “The week of the fight, three guys. So it was crazy.” Still, at the end of the day said Vera, we’ve all got two hands and two legs. And he had the will to fight.
Speaking about the opponents the UFC offered, “the first guy they offered me was like a plain boxer, with only wrestling defense,” said Vera. “I was like ‘I guess I can kick him and move around.’ The second guy said ‘okay, I’ll take the fight’ then the promotion he was fighting for don’t let him out of the contract. And then they offered me this new guy that I fought today. I was like ‘okay that’s six days from the fight, that’s the third guy.'”
“In my head I wasn’t sure about what I want, because it was too much going on.” It was not a pretty situation. “I don’t want to come here without being prepared mentally. But I just played the old Chito, like ‘f*ck it, let’s go.'”
Some last minute training, and hot yoga, helped level him out. Although Vera almost sabotaged himself by breaking his diet ahead of the fight when he found out O’Malley had dropped out. “I started eating more food, I was like ‘I’m not going to diet for nothing.’ Then when they called me I was like ‘f*ck I need to cut the weight again.’ And that was a little hard, but I still made it as the professional I am.”
Asked whether he’d like to get the Sean O’Malley fight back, Vera seemed fine either way. “I’m not interested in nobody. If the UFC wants to make the fight, cool. If the UFC throws somebody else [my way], cool.”
Watch the full post-fight press scrum with Marlon Vera from UFC 239 above!