After losing a split decision to Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) in April 2018, Vettori (17-5-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) spent years claiming he should’ve won and he would solidify it in a rematch. He finally got his chance this past June, but things didn’t go his way again. He lost by unanimous decision in the UFC 263 headliner.
Vettori was very confident going into the second encounter with Adesanya. He was the first to get a winning scorecard over “The Last Stylebender” in the first bout, and thought he possessed the tools to get his hand raised when they ran it back. He came up short in the official result, but Vettori doesn’t think that tells the whole story.
The Italian fighter admits he was frustrated with media and fan perception of how the rematch unfolded. He thought he did enough for it to be considered a closer outcome – if not a win in his favor – and argues he should get more credit. Additionally, Vettori said he didn’t fight to his best due to some unexpected realities inside the octagon.
“He was very smart in there and he fought a very smart fight,” Vettori said. “With that being said, he wasn’t better. He wasn’t better at all in general. He wasn’t mored skilled. He didn’t have more cardio. He didn’t have more anything, really. He was smart. He knew he was a champion. He didn’t really want to engage with me in a lot of things. Exchanges in general. One thing he was good at, he was able to play the crowd and kind of like almost be his own cornering in a sense. He had his own cornering, obviously, but he also had his like, he was his own corner. He was able to see the situation a little bit more from outside, from a third eye, almost.
“I did I mistake I think that maybe it was because it was the first time in front of the crowd for a while, or for a number of reasons. But with that being said, he used that to his advantage. Meanwhile, I didn’t use it or almost I let it played against me because I had like blinders on. That, most of the time would be the right thing to do. But in a situation like this it’s not. Especially when you’re fighting for a title.”
Vettori will get his chance to rebound from the title-fight loss on Oct. 23 when he faces Paulo Costa (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 196 main event. The card takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streams on ESPN+.
Although Costa is a matchup Vettori has wanted for some time – and he has expectations for a brutal victory – he said it’s all just a building block toward getting back to Adesanya. It’s not typical for a fighter to be granted a third opportunity to face a standing champion if they’ve already lost twice, but Vettori hopes his performances show he can be an exception.
“I did a mistake and I paid for it,” Vettori said. “But, you know, I really realized I can really beat this guy and I’m actually better than this guy. Two days after it’s like, ‘If we redo this fight, I’m going to beat this guy. Clean.’ But that’s it. Now I have to just reclaim my spot, and I feel like this is a fight (against Costa) that regardless of being champion or not, I would have won. I would have won this fight.
“I’m definitely thinking title and I know for a fact I’m going to face again Adesanya. I just want to fight the best, be the best and eventually claim my spot to be the best and win the title.”