SAN DIEGO – UFC bantamweight contender Marlon Vera would be the first to tell you that working with coach Jason Parillo changed his life, so how’s that for a life-changing moment?
As fight week rolled around for 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 photo,” Vera told reporters afterwards at the Pechanga Arena. “It was literally (Pedro) Munhoz kicking him (at UFC 269), and his head was going all the way down. He didn’t send anything, he just sent me the photo. I picked it up as if it was passing me a message. And in the third round, he said to me, “Punch in the air, soak it and throw some fucking hay.” And I was like, ‘Thank you, coach.’
Vera (22-7-1 MMA, 14-6 UFC) listened, and in the fourth he landed a Vicious knockout while landing a head kick because Cruz did exactly what Parillo predicted. A few follow-up punches, and that’s all she wrote. Vera picked up the new ‘biggest win of her career’ – which previously included Frankie Edgar and Rob Font.
“Everything I did to lead this fight paid off – hard work, staying consistent, staying focused, not fucking in the media,” Vera said. “Just be consistent. The best years of my life await me right now. Why not be thorough? … These performances don’t just happen if you only go halfway. I bet everything.”
The results speak for themselves as Vera pushed her winning streak to four. Vera was down 29-28 on all three judges’ scorecards heading into the fourth round after Cruz’s diverse, high-volume offense was largely successful. But Vera had her own setbacks. Afterwards, he called Cruz’s tricky style “low level”.
“We were like, ‘We have to kick this guy’s ass. ‘” Vera said of the message among her team. “But by saying that, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I just believe the style is not the best style for MMA. Maybe for boxing it works better. But for MMA, there are far too many guns in circulation.
With the win, Vera has placed herself 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. TJ Dillashaw, Jose Aldo versus Merab Dvalishvili and Petr Yan versus Sean O’Malley.
To use her own words, Vera doesn’t “stumble” over any of this.
“It’s a good thing to have a good mindset and not really worry about things you can’t control,” Vera said. “…I know for a fact that (the UFC loves me), so why trip when you know it’s all gonna happen. Just keep working.
He continued: “When I was 14 in Ecuador I used to tell everyone I wanted to be a UFC fighter, I want to be a world champion, I want to move to the United States and train. in a real gym. Looking back, it was all just a fantasy at the time, but no one knew I was for real. It was my dream. Now that I’m living it, I’m fucking happy.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s Event Center for UFC on ESPN 41.