“I’ve been sacrificing since I was 16 years old,” he says, recalling how different his after school life was from the other teenage boys in Trento, Italy, where he grew up. “I remember at 4pm, my friends would hang around, do whatever normal kids would do. But for me, I would come back from school, eat, rest for a moment, and go and I wouldn’t be back until 11pm at night to go to sleep.
Train rides were a constant throughout the week, as Vettori shuttled throughout the area, landing at different gyms, learning individual disciplines, bent on turning his drive and natural inclination towards combat sports into something bigger.
“At the time, I was a little bit of a troublemaker and I thought that I could put my skills to some good. I slowly realized this was a sport that requires maximum discipline and determination, that there wasn’t much around me, and I had to seek that out.
UFC 263 EMBEDDED: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4
“I always had to look for more and more and more because it was always hard to find high-level competition.”
Three years into his exploration of the sport, Vettori made the decision to leave home, trading train rides in Italy for the ability to train with more seasoned competitors and learning from more established coaches in London.
Though he’s far from the first fighter to leave the comforts of home in search of greater opportunities, being able to recognize the need to do so and pulling the trigger on such a life-altering decision at 19 years old underscores just how long and hot the competitive fires have been burning inside this weekend’s middleweight title challenger.
“I remember I had an emotional moment with my father on the day I left,” recalls Vettori, who carries a five-fight winning streak into his rematch with Adesanya this weekend. “Now when I think about London, I could go back and forth every week if I wanted, but at the time, I knew that was a moment where I was leaving for good. I didn’t go home for seven months or so when I left the first time, and I knew it was a changing point of my life.