Vettori (19-7-1 MMA, 9-5-1 UFC) has spent significant time training with UFC middleweight champion Strickland in the past. The two also have playfully traded barbs, with Strickland saying Vettori is “stupid as f*cking dirt,” but has potential.
Vettori admits it’s a little harder to talk smack to Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) now that he’s champion.
“Sean is a crazy f*cker, but I’m also,” Vettori told MMA Junkie. “We get along, and I talk a lot of sh*t to him sometimes. Before, I could just say, ‘Shut the f*ck up because you’re crazy.’ But now he’s the champion, so he has a point. I kind of have to be like, ‘Sh*t, I can’t really tell you to shut up because you made it happen, so I kind of have to respect what you’re saying.’ Listen, Strickland made it happen for himself, and hat’s off to him.
“At the end of the day, obviously I want to be in his spot. But at the same time, we grinded, we trained for so long. I’ve known him for seven, eight years, so we trained, we had endless rounds, and it’s always good to see somebody next to you becoming champion. It just shows you it’s doable. He did it, even though he’s crazy. He made it happen, so everything is possible. (I’m) happy for him, even though one day I’ll take that spot for sure.”
Vettori wasn’t surprised Strickland dethroned Israel Adesanya at UFC 293, but admitted he didn’t think it would be that easy for him.
“The way that he did, this dominant, maybe a little bit – listen, if you’ve never trained with Strickland, you don’t really see what he’s about just by watching him,” Vettori said. “When you step in there with him, it’s a whole different ball game. His way of cutting the space off is very weird. If you haven’t sparred him, it’s tough to fight him.”