After four post-fight bonuses in his first four UFC fights, we’re desperate to see more of Lando Vannata.
Don’t blink when it’s time to get ‘Groovy’ in the UFC. Lando Vannata’s blossoming Octagon career has been a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride of improvisational violence, making him one of the first names on the list when FO talks about the athletes that we most want to see in the cage.
He pushed Tony Ferguson harder than anyone in his debut, Fight of the Night display. His spectacular spinning wheel kick KO of John Makdessi was an automatic Performance of the Night winner, and two more cheques for 50Gs followed when wars with David Teymur and Bobby Green took the prize for best in show.
You can expect more of the same in 2018, as the stylish 25-year-old Jackson-Wink striker aims to impose his brand of artistic MMA on the best fighters in the sport’s deepest division.
How much fun are you having in the UFC right now?
I’ve been telling people I’ve never had more fun in a fight in my life. One of the top three most fun things I’ve ever done is fight with Bobby Green. It was an absolute blast. The dude was super cool. All fight week we were super cool with each other. We were talking inside the cage, he was giving me props when I landed things that were good. And he was like, ‘Nah, you just missed!’ when I missed my shots. It was just a good time. A really, really fun fight.
Is that the kind of fight that brings out the best in you?
I don’t like being serious about things too much. I’m the kind of guy who likes to have fun. That’s definitely the best kind of fight for me. That’s what I vibe with.
How important is it to entertain and put on a show?
I really don’t focus on it that much. I have a game plan and I kind of try to stick to the game plan. The kind of fight that ends up happening is a by-product of what we plan to do. With Bobby, we were going in there to try and break him, to push the pace and get him tired. But Bobby was in better shape than ever and he brought the fight. I don’t focus too much on winning or losing, or going in to entertain, or even to win. Obviously, I want to win, but I’m more focused on the process and what I have to do to get the victory.
How motivated are you to show your artistic side in a fight?
I love displaying the art side of it. I feel like I’m an artist and a lot of fighters are artists. I want to display the creativity I put in at the gym and when I go into a fight. The reason I had the Makdessi knockout, a great fight with Teymur, a great fight with Tony, a great fight within Bobby, is because of that creativity nobody else has.
Do you expect to win all the bonuses you do?
I expect that every single time. I know what I’m capable of, I know what my level is, and I know I have the ability to be a top dog in the division and one of the top dogs in the game. Every time I go out, I have the ability to collect bonus cheques, collect the win bonus and put on a great show.
Would you trade any of those $50,000 cheques for four wins?
It feels better to win, but I don’t think I would sacrifice expressing myself inside the cage just to get a victory. One of my goals since day one, is to win a belt and be one of the best, but to do it my own way. I don’t want to sacrifice my sense of self and my personality for an object or status.
What adjustments do you have to make to change that?
I’m still young in the sport. I’ve only had 12 fights. I’ve only been fighting professionally for five years. Things are still just starting to click. There are many things I’m still just realising and putting together the pieces. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. They’re starting to fall into the right place and it’s just little adjustments from here on out. A little bit of a higher work ethic in the conditioning department, a little bit more mixing the offence and the defence together. Little things will seal the deal and take me to the top.
How close are you to the conditioning level you want?
In this last fight I was in way better shape than I was for the Teymur fight. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I’m very athletic, very explosive, and just building that gas tank to go for the 15 or 25 minutes at the kind of pace I set is important. I need to build the conditioning. It’s right there and I know what I need to do. I’ll get the work done for this next one.
Do you still think you can be drawn into a brawl?
I didn’t feel like there was any ego going into this last fight. With the Ferguson fight, nobody had ever made that dude go backwards. Up until the point I fought him he was always pressuring people. I was like, ‘F**k you, Tony!’. I was tired, but wanted that win for my own ego. When I fought Bobby there was no ego. I felt calm, collected, smooth.
Are you as dynamic and creative with your grappling too?
My grappling game is good. I’m very top heavy. People have a hard time holding me down. My wrestling, my scrambles and unorthodox s**t I do when I wrestle is pretty cool. I’ll be flipping off the cage to defend single legs, and doing a whole bunch of wild s**t. I try to incorporate the cage into a lot of things I do. It allows for creative movements you can’t normally see in BJJ.
Is it the kind of thing you want to show off in the UFC or are you happier on the feet?
I was planning on showing a little bit of it with Bobby but man, that guy was f**king hard to hold down! With the Teymur fight, I was too caught up in the striking and that was part of my demise. It’s opponent-based as to whether we decide to take them down or work them on the feet. You’ll definitely see it in the future, for sure.
Are you motivated by the fact people expect exciting fights?
It makes me happy to know I’ve got a loyal following that wants to tune in to a card that might not be the best just to watch me fight. That’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t make me go fight a certain way. It’s all about the game plan, it’s all about who the opponent is. There might be fireworks, you might see me lay on top of a guy for 15 minutes and throwing ground and pound and looking to advance my position. That’s not the kind of fight you expect from me, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
How did you take Demetrious Johnson’s criticism about the amount of damage you and Bobby Green took?
I’m not worried about it. Aside from the punch right at the end of the fight, all the damage I took was superficial. Demetrious is a badass, but he can do him and I’ll do me.
What do you expect to achieve in 2018?
Towards the end of March or early April, I’d like to fight a top 20 guy next. I put on a pretty good performance against Bobby. I just want to go out there and have some fun and dominate every single fight I have. I want two or three fights next year and just put some ass-whoopings on everybody!
This article first appeared in the January edition of Fighters Only. Sign up for a free digital subscription by filling in the form on this page.