01 Jan Karl Roberson, Marvin Vettori give their sides of viral clash before UFC Jacksonville
Karl Roberson and his coach called it a setup. Marvin Vettori said it was a real reaction to five months’ worth of pent-up frustration and anger.
“That’s a b*tch move,” Roberson told MMA Fighting.
“He b*tched out, like many others did in the last [two] months,” Vettori said.
Until the day of UFC Jacksonville, the middleweights were supposed to settle any of their differences in the octagon. Instead, they wound up airing them publicly in the lobby of the event’s host hotel after Roberson withdrew from the event, nearly coming to blows in a confrontation that went viral.
Now, Roberson wants to rebook the fight when he recovers from a bad weight cut that sent him to the hospital with what his coach, Bright Wright, said was rhabdomyolysis, a dangerous breakdown of muscle tissue that can cause kidney failure and, in rare cases, death.
“I hate childish sh*t,” Roberson said. “[Vettori] did a lot of b*tch moves, and I like to fight. So if he wants to back up what he says, he can back up what he says. I’m looking forward to it.”
After months of training for two separate bouts that were ultimately canceled, Vettori’s biggest requirement moving forward is that someone shows up.
“I just care that I get a guy that’s going to be in that f*cking cage on that f*cking day,” Vettori said.
It was Tuesday, one day before the event, when the effects of a long and staggered training camp caught up to Roberson, according to Wright.
Roberson blacked out and threw up during his weight cut, Wright said, and they decided to stop before his condition became more serious. On the scale, he was 1.5 pounds over the 186-pound limit for non-title middleweight bouts.
Face to face after the official weigh-ins, the fighters jawed back and forth, with Vettori calling Roberson “a broken man” and Roberson promising to knock out Vettori.
After dinner on Tuesday night, Wright said Roberson’s body began to “crash.” After the fighter passed out, Wright notified the UFC’s medical team. During a checkup, Wright said Roberson couldn’t remember where he was and for briefly couldn’t remember his last name. At that point, he added, the medical team made the call to send him to an area hospital. When Roberson was released, he was given three IV bags and ordered to rest. The fight was canceled.
Wright proposed to rebook the fight for UFC on ESPN 8, but he said the doctor who saw Roberson at the hospital nixed that possibility. Roberson wasn’t the only one struggling with weight, he said.
“The UFC doctor said most of the guys that are fighting are showing signs of this, because everybody’s taking on short notice, or they’re coming off a ton of canceled fights and they’ve had forever camps,” Wright said. “It’s just an odd situation, and this kind of stuff is expected.”
Rather than stay in the hotel, Roberson and Wright decided to fly back to their home in New Jersey. As they left their rooms and headed to the elevator, they encountered Vettori’s nutritionist, Matteo Capodaglio.
“He started texting when we got there,” Wright said. “He was going to get in our elevator, and then he said, ‘No, no.’ Then he went across to another one, and when we got down, Vettori was waiting for us. So that guy set us up.”
According to Vettori, he was already looking for Roberson when he was grabbing a bite in the hotel lobby. He said Capodaglio told him Roberson was on his way, and he decided to have a word with his would-be opponent.
“I wanted him to look him in the eyes and ask him why he was doing this,” Vettori said. “I didn’t go with the best intentions – I didn’t go with the worst intentions. I honestly just went up, and I wanted to say, ‘So what happened?’”
The conversation was civil, according to Vettori, until Roberson squared up with him and accused him of spreading negative stories in the media.
“I told him, ‘You know you fucked up, right? And he said, ‘Yes, I know,’” Vettori said. “I was about to turn and go, because I was like, man, these guys are down. I can’t say anything. I was half-turned around, and he took off his mask, and he looks at me and says, ‘I heard you said I was scared to fight you.’ I turned around and said, ‘Hell yeah I said that. You were a broken man yesterday, and you’re a broken man today.’ That’s where he put his chest out. From there, it escalated.”
The MMA world saw what happened next. A UFC official held back an enraged Vettori, who screamed expletives across the hotel lobby.
Marvin just met Karl Roberson as he was leaving the hotel. He “kept that same energy”. #ufcjacksonville
Roberson’s fainting and trip to the hospital didn’t move Vettori. He said fighters know what they sign up for when they agree to fight: a weight cut that could result in potentially dangerous health complications. He said it’s very likely that any medical check given to a fighter in the throes of a serious weight cut would reveal concerning numbers, inviting further scrutiny.
“If the first thing you do after fainting is call the UFC, to me, you’re looking for a way out,” Vettori said. “You know when you call the UFC, you’re basically pulling yourself out of the fight, because you know how it goes, unless you’re stupid. If you really want to fight, you’re not going to call the medical team.”
Wright believes Vettori’s outburst was an act to get the promotion and fans invested in his next fight. Vettori, though, said everything he did was from the heart. He said it wasn’t completely about the money he’d lost – the UFC paid him his “show” money for the bout, as the promotion did for a canceled bout at UFC London. It was about all the time and effort that’s required to live the life of a fighter, and his anger was over the waste of being able to show the result of his sacrifices.
Vettori previously detailed the heartache that accompanied a crazy sequence of events that led to canceled work for his previously scheduled fight. In two days, he spent 22 hours on a plane and said he would have made three transatlantic trips if he meat he could compete.
Not only was that on his mind, but four or five days earlier, Vettori said his grandfather had passed away after a long bout of illness (he added it was not related to the coronavirus).
“I shouldn’t have lost it in the moment like that, but I lost it when he squared up to me,” he said. “Sometimes, I do lose it when so much is on the line and things matter so much to me.”
Roberson can understand Vettori would be upset, but he still seethes at the idea that he was accused of being scared. He prides himself on fighting opponents at a moment’s notice. He didn’t ask for a break when a bout against Makhmud Muradov at UFC 249 fell through due to the coronavirus. While his body had other things in mind, he wanted to compete.
“We’ve all been through the same thing,” Roberson said. “People have died from this. And everybody knows my track record. I don’t back out of fights. I fight anybody, any time. So for me to get pulled out on a medical issue, [it] would be a show of respect to respect other fighters. If you can’t handle it and you call yourself a man and act childish, I don’t respect that.”
Vettori remains in Jacksonville as the UFC approaches the final event of a three-show run the promotion put together to get back to business. While he rules out a trip back down to middleweight, he said he’s more than willing to fight at light heavyweight in the event that one of the four middleweights on the card can’t compete and would accept a heavier bout.
If he can’t compete this weekend, Vettori said a bout with Ian Heinisch is an intriguing option. But he’s not terribly picky.
“I want a guy that’s on the level of professionalism that I can almost be sure that he’s going to be there on that f*cking day until they lock that cage up,” he said.
Roberson and Wright hope Vettori can wait a little bit longer. Roberson said he only needs to be cleared by a doctor to begin another training camp.
“We’ll fight him in two weeks,” Wright said. “We don’t care. Give us two weeks, and we’ll fight him again. It literally was, we had a 14-week fight camp, we had a different travel schedule than we were used to, we were having trouble finding food that was going to accommodate, and complications from the weight cut.”
“Right now, it’s up to the UFC,” Roberson said. “I’m down, if he’s willing to, he wants to talk a bunch of sh*t, then let him back it up. The offer’s out there on my side.”