SAN DIEGO – UFC bantamweight content Marlon Vera would be the first to tell you that working with coach Jason Parillo has changed his life, so how’s this for a life-altering moment?
Six days before his UFC on ESPN 41 headliner against former champion Dominick Cruz, Vera received a text message from Parillo. No words, just a screenshot.
“Like six days ago, my coach sent a picture,” Vera told reporters afterward at Pechanga Arena. “It was literally (Pedro) Munhoz kicking his body (at UFC 269), and his head was dipping all the way down. He didn’t text anything, just sent me the picture. I picked it up like he’s giving me a message. And in the third round he told me, ‘Punch in the air, have him dip, and throw a f*cking haymaker.’ And I was like, ‘Thank you, coach.'”
Vera (22-7-1 MMA, 14-6 UFC) listened, and in the fourth, he came through with a vicious knockout by landing a head kick as Cruz did just what Parillo predicted. Some follow-up punches, and that was all she wrote. Vera had the new “biggest win of his career” – which previously included Frankie Edgar and Rob Font.
“Everything I did leading to this fight has paid off – hard work, staying consistent, staying focused, don’t be f*cking around in the media,” Vera said. “Just be consistent. These are the best years of my life ahead of me right now. Why not be all in? … Those performances don’t happen like that if you’re just going halfway. I’m all in.”
The results speak for themselves as Vera pushed his winning streak to four. Vera was down 29-28 on all three judges’ scorecards heading into the fourth round after Cruz’s high-volume, diverse attack was largely successful. But Vera had two knockdowns of his own. Afterward, he called Cruz’s tricky style “low level.”
“We told each other, ‘We have to kick this guy’s ass.'” Vera said of the message among his team. “But by saying that, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I just believe that style is not the best style for MMA. Maybe for boxing it works better. But for MMA, he has way too many weapons going.”
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With the victory, Vera placed himself firmly in the 135-pound title conversation, although there are dominoes that need to fall with a slate of high-profile fights in the coming weeks – Champion Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw, Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili, and Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley.
To use his own words, Vera isn’t “tripping” on any of that.
“That’s a good thing, having a good mindset and just really not giving a f*ck about things you cannot control,” Vera said. “… I know for a matter of fact (the UFC likes) me, so why be tripping when you know everything’s gonna come your way. Just keep working.”
He continued, “When I was 14 years old in Ecuador, I was telling everybody I want to be a UFC fighter, I want to be a world champion, I want to move to U.S. and train with a real gym. Looking back, everything was a fantasy back then, but nobody knew I was being for real. That was my dream. Now that I’m living it, I’m f*cking happy.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 41.