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From Ecuador to the Cage; Exclusive Interview with UFC Fighter Marlon “Chito” Vera

AJ Camacho

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Marlon “Chito” Vera’s UFC story would be a Cinderella Story deferred. As the 2014 member of the TUF: Latin America cast, Vera drew people in with his noble story of a young prize fighting father trying to pay for his daughter’s surgery with nothing more than grit, hard work, and fists. Viewers responded well and people had high hopes to see his story resolve itself over the course of the show. 

Vera’s daughter suffers from a rare congenital neurological disorder known as Möbius syndrome. Möbius syndrome is characteristically known for its facial paralysis which prevents sufferers from showing facial emotion. The overall health and intellect of the child is fine, but the social repercussions for being unable to smile can be gut wrenchingly detrimental for a child’s social development.

People with Möbius syndrome are sometimes incorrectly disregarded as being unintelligent or anti-social, by those unfamiliar with the condition, due to their inability to relate to people with facial gestures and cues. Most of us take for granted the power to emote, the power to smile. For these children, a myriad of social doors are closed and barriers placed up by people who don’t understand the condition and presume the worst. For this reason, Chito has been vocal about the struggles of his daughter and his goal in earning the money needed to afford her the crucial surgery she needs to be able to smile and articulate her face.

But we wouldn’t see our Willy Wonka golden ticket ending in TUF. After an amazing and devastating up kick KO victory in the earlier rounds, Chito was soon sidelined due to a skin infection and prevented from continuing with the show. Despite his inability to compete, Dana White was clearly impressed, annnouncing to Vera that the UFC would cover his daughter’s medical costs. Addittionally, the UFC would secure Chito for his UFC debut against Marco Beltran at UFC 180 back in November of 2014.

The Marco Beltran fight was to be Chito’s big coming out party, but that conclusion would slip through his fingers once again. After a grueling and hard-fought three rounds of fighting, Beltran would win the debatable unanimous decision win putting Chito’s career in the UFC into question. We would have to wait until UFC Fight Night 73, where a demoted non-televised prelim Chito would earn a Submission of the Night worthy armbar victory over Roman Salazar. A prelim fighter winning submission of the night is an uncommon and rare occurrence with only 17% of the non-televised prelim fighters being capable of achieving such a feat. The win would secure Chito’s placement in the UFC and award him $50,000 to ease some relief from the struggle and the grind of a prize fighter’s life.

“I was fighting on the street, I was fighting in school, I was fighting in the clubs… I loved to fight but I lost every single fight before my [MMA] debut.”

[Chito was kind enough to sit down with me for a chat as we discussed his path from Ecuador to the UFC, his winning submission, his street-fighting days, and what exactly a “Chito” is. The following is an excerpt from the full-length interview which can be heard at the embedded link at the bottom of the page.]

How does someone like you fall into MMA. I mean it’s obviously not a big sport in Ecuador, but how did you discover it?

So, how I discovered the UFC… my coach is a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and a Muay Thai coach. So he started to train me in boxing and all that stuff. And I started to [watch] the UFC and the first fighter I saw was GSP. And I was like, ‘Damn, this is the best guy in the world. I want to be like this guy when I grow up.’

So I started when I was 17 and my first… fight was when I was 17 and I won by armbar. So I start to train really, really hard and to take this seriously after my first MMA fight. This is my life, you know, I fight my whole life.

I was fighting on the street, I was fighting in school, I was fighting in the clubs… I loved to fight but I lost every single fight before my [MMA] debut. [Which] is funny because I was fighting in the street and I was losing. Getting punched in the face, I was like “Ohhh, this guy kicked my ass!”

So I was loving the sport but [I was doing real bad]. So I started to train real hard.

“I prefer [Chito as] a nickname rather than “The Killer”, or some stuff like that.”

[I’ll be honest, I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know what Chito’s name meant. I have a cousin we called Tito and even a great uncle who’s name was Chito but for the life of me, I have no idea what Chito meant. In a state of Hispanic-shame I texted my mother for the answer. She had no awnser for me, which lead to her calling up my grandmother to discuss Uncle Chito and his curious name. The best they could figure out was that the name was short for Jesus… as in “Hey, Zeus”. That didn’t make much sense given the context of Marlon’s name. So I was left alone without any research information to just ask the question.]

You’re nickname, Chito. What does that mean? Because I asked my mom and my grandmother, and apparently I have an uncle Chito but it’s like short for Jesus or something and I don’t think that’s the same in Ecuador as it is in Mexico. So What does the nickname Chito mean?

Okay, Chito means like – my second name is Andreas. When I was a kid and people ask me for my name, I just say, “Andreacito” like a little name.

Gotchya, the diminutive form…

Yeah, it’s like a diminutive [version] of the name. Like a little name, Andreas/Andreasito but as a kid I would say AndreaCHITO. [I picked it] as a fight name because my family always called me that since I was a kid.

I prefer [Chito as] a nickname rather than “The Killer”, or some stuff like that. Stuff like “Assessino”, that’s not for me.

“This money is going to be really good for me because I can train without the pressure [of needing] money.”

[$50,000 can go a long way. But for the life of a prelim card professional fighter this is not vacation caviar money. This is gym, ham, eggs, take care of the kids, and “keep the lights on” money. I wondered, would $50,000 magically change Chito’s life overnight?]

Congratulations with your recent submission win over Roman Salazar at UYFC Fight Night 73.

Thank you man, it was a tough fight…

And you got submission of the night for that, right – for the armbar?

Yeah, I got it.

And have you been able to use the bonus money for good use yet?

I will use this money to pay my camp, to pay [for] school for my daughter, to support my daughter… I have to keep working hard. This money is going to be really good for me because I can train without the pressure [of needing] money. I will use [the money] for me and my family, to pay my camp, my coaches, and to be ready to [come] back soon. I want to fight before the year ends. I want to fight in December or November, I will be ready for that.

How tough is it in Ecuador, to be able to afford training and just living… is it tough there?

In Ecuador, the toughest thing is that we don’t have MMA gyms… we don’t have a lot of MMA fighters. So it’s hard for me and my coach because we are alone here. We don’t have a lot of partners we try to train in every place in my home, in my coach’s home. It’s really hard to be a fighter here in Ecuador because everybody love soccer and everything is around soccer.

I have in my hands and on my shoulders the pressure of changing the history of MMA in the country and in Latin America. It’s really hard to be a fighter here because we don’t have the support of the big [corporate] brands to support us.

“…the first thing I will do, is put the biggest elbows in your face.”

[Ultimately, though, this all comes down to that fateful arm bar that won Chito his win over Roman Salazar and subsequently the $50,000 Submission of the Night Bonus. At the time, some would think that Chito’s triangle attempts were tenacious but frustrated. His chain of submission attacks appearing more like stubborn hail mairy passes followed with vengeful elbow strikes from his closed guard.

However, if you were thinking this you would be mistaken. Chito expands and describes one of his favorite submission setups. Here’s a hint, it starts with slamming your elbow into their face…]

I noticed in your fights, you use a lot of overhooks and wrist control to setup your triangles and stuff like that. It’s a very MMA guard that you use.

My coach [Frank Vidal] is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt but he’s not going to teach me a berimbolo or rolling stuff that we don’t need. My coach have a real MMA Jiu-Jitsu. My coach, every single day on the computer watching techniques about Jiu-Jitsu for MMA because that is what I need. I’m not going to make a berimbolo because [my opponent] will break my face.

What are some of your favorite setups for the triangle in closed guard?

My favorite thing in the triangle is – the first thing I will do, is put the biggest elbows in your face. Because if I just use the technique from Jiu-Jitsu he is going to escape from [my triangle]. If you put big elbows in his face, try to cut his face, he is going to come more into the triangle.

Oh wow, so you’re keeping his posture in because he’s avoiding your elbows and keeps ducking into your guard.

Yeaaaaah. You have to break the posture to finish the guy. The position is first and then goes the submission. You know, I am a ground fighter but I am the ground fighter that can fight the stand-up. I was trying to stand with [Salazar] but he refused to stand up and fight. I was ready to fight stand-up and he started to put me down. My coach say, “Okay, he don’t want to fight stand-up, go finish the fight on the ground and put some serious elbows in his face. Make him pay.”

“There is no celebration, there is not party for me.”

[Despite his recent success, Marlon made it clear that he is not ready to relax and celebrate. He wants to get back into the cage as soon as possible entering immediately back into training once again. If his future is anything like his recent wins, then he’s sure to see all of his hard work pay off.]

And on Monday, I make my first run and I start to eat well again. There is no celebration, there is not party for me.

Are you trying to get on that (Fight Night) Monterrey card in November?

That card is really good but if I could fight in the US again, I would love it. There’s two cards.. there’s McGregor vs Aldo and Cowboy vs Dos Anjos in Orlando. Orlando would be a good place for me because [of the short distance] everybody from Ecuador… could fly to watch my fight.

For a full-length version of the interview and the raw audio, follow this link here:

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Bellator

Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Bellator

Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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