Marlon Vera dreams of bringing UFC to Ecuador but first must claim gold from Sean O’Malley

MIAMI – As seen by the media attention this week ahead of UFC 299, Marlon Vera has proven to be a superstar for Ecuador, and “Chito” is hoping to turn that interest into a future UFC event for his country.

Vera (21-8-1 MMA, 15-7 UFC), the greatest MMA fighter to come out of Ecuador, fights this Saturday for the UFC bantamweight title as he takes on champion Sean O'Malley (17-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) in the headlining act of UFC 299 (pay-per-view, ESPNews, ESPN+). It’s a huge fight for his career as it’s the first time he competes for a UFC title, but Vera also sees it as a huge fight for his country since he believes the idea of having a UFC event in Ecuador is very dependent on his success.

“That’s one of my biggest dreams, but personally, like for example, look at Mexico,” Vera told reporters, including MMA Junkie, in Spanish at Wednesday’s UFC 299 media day. “Mexico has champions and former champions. Look at Alexa Grasso, Yair (Rodriguez) who was interim champion, Brandon (Moreno) who was champion, lost, but then won it again – they went last month and in 2019, so that shows you how difficult it is to get them to your country.

“In Mexico, they just built a Performance Institute, and they have a bigger infrastructure in the sport itself. Ecuador doesn’t have that yet. Some of those Ecuadorians that fought in Contender Series didn’t do too well. Today it’s probably easier for them to go to Spain, Argentina or other countries. It’s tough because I’d love to see the UFC go to Ecuador and fight in Ecuador, but from my experience, you look around and in terms of hotels, security, there’s a still a lot to go. I think that it’s something will happen eventually, and I have that responsibility this Saturday. Winning this fight will get us a bit closer to making it happen.”

O’Malley vs. Vera is a rematch that’s been almost four years in the making. The two fought back in August 2020 in the co-main event of UFC 252. That night, Vera stopped O’Malley in the first round and became, still to this day, the only man to defeat O’Malley.

Vera is hoping to beat O’Malley a second time and make history for his country by becoming the first Ecuador-born fighter to claim UFC gold.

“For me, please keep bringing in those good vibes. Keep showing me that support because that can only help,” Vera said. “As an Ecuadorian, I want to give that victory to the country and I want to take that belt to Ecuador. This motivates me and helps me wake up in the morning every day. I’m always grateful for the support of the people.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 299.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie