“I just saw him here like three minutes ago,” Vettori told MMA Junkie. “At the end of the day, when he steps in the cage, we’ll settle it there. I was just pissed because you’re acting tough in the f-cking lobby, and we were supposed to fight in a few hours. You should have just kept your mouth shut and show up in the cage.”
Vettori (14-3-1 MMA, 4-2-1 UFC) and fellow middleweight Roberson (9-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) were expected to meet at May’s UFC on ESPN+ 29 event in Florida. Roberson missed weight for the matchup, but Vettori agreed to a catchweight contest. However, after the official weigh-ins, “Baby K” continued to struggle with his recovery, and medical personnel ruled him ineligible to compete.
For Vettori, who had already had two other fight dates scratched due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was an infraction he simply couldn’t let slide, leading to a now-infamous hotel confrontation the day they were scheduled meet in the octagon.
“I just wanted to talk to him and say, ‘Why the hell did you pull out?’” Vettori said. “He missed weight. I accepted, and then he still pulled out. I was like, ‘What the hell? Why did you pull out?’ Then his coach talked, and he was telling me that he fainted after the weigh-ins. Meanwhile, he was recharging, and they right away called the UFC medical team, and they brought him to the hospital, and they said his kidney values were up. But man, the kidney values would be up after a weight cut.
“But yeah, then I was about to walk off. Honestly, I was about to walk off, and just right before, I told him, ‘You know you f-cked up? You know you f-cked up? All of this is really f-cked up.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I know.’ This and that. Then I was about to walk off, and the moment I’m walking off, he looks at me, and he’s like, ‘Oh, but I heard you said that I’m scared to fight you.’ I’m like, ‘Of course I said that, and I really believe that. I think you were a broken man yesterday. You’re a broken man today,’ and that’s what I told him. Then he put his chest out and he tried to square off with me. That’s why I freaked out.”
Vettori tried to find anyone willing to fight him in Florida but ultimately had to settle for a rebooking at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 10, which takes place at UFC Apex and airs live on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.
There’s no question it’s a grudge match, but Vettori said he understands the importance of keeping his emotions in check.
“I just kind of like flipped off on him when he tried to square off on me,” Vettori said. “At the end of the day, now I’m going to go out, beat him up as brutally as I can, and that’s it.
“You’ll see a lot of action, but I’m not stupid. Any high-level fighter, they know you can’t let anger get to your head. I’m not stupid. I’m not a stupid fighter. At the end of the day, you have to think, the worst thing you can do to him is to beat him and walk away with a dominant, super beautiful-fashioned win. That’s it. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Oddsmakers have Vettori installed as a sizable favorite in the contest, currently sitting at around a -230, suggesting a 70 percent probability of winning. That sounds about right to “The Italian Dream,” who believes he’s going to send a message in this grudge match.
“It is a little bit personal,” Vettori said. “It is personal. It’s just that now, the only thing that I want is for him to step into the cage, and I’ll be happy like this. But it is personal because he messed with my own life. He messed with my coaches’ life. He messed with the whole team.
“It was unprofessional and a bunch of things. But I think he’s a solid fighter – just not on my level. When the level of competition went up for him, he wasn’t able to match the level. That’s what happened. He’s jut not on my level.”