Sometimes it’s not about the winning and the losing. It’s not about the rankings and the titles and the need to preserve an undefeated record. Sometimes, only sometimes, it’s just about going out there and having fun.
Neptune City’s Lando Vannata tries to have fun each and every time he sets foot in the Octagon. He hopes people describe his style of fun – to watch, rather than fight – and hopes the experience as a whole, that of giving and receiving punches and kicks, would bring him similar joy.
It’s a weird juxtaposition, of course, this idea that a fight – full of damaging strikes, chokes and joint manipulation – can ever be described as something akin to play. A good time. But Vannata, and many others, certainly see it that way. His last fight, for instance, a draw with Bobby Green, was about more than just getting a win on the record and moving forward. Instead, the greater aim was to put smiles on faces.
“I’ve been telling people after this last one I’ve never had more fun in a fight in my life,” Vannata told Fighters Only editor Michael Owens. “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.”
Vannata wants to be victorious in every fight. Don’t for one moment think he doesn’t. Vannata cares, all right. He sets out to win and prepares accordingly. He studies his opponent. He sets out a game plan. But then the fight starts and stuff happens.
“I have a game plan and I kind of try to stick to the game plan,” said the 25-year-old. “The kind of fight that ends up happening is a by-product of what we plan to do.
“With Bobby we were going to try and break him, push the pace and get him tired. But a Bobby who was in better shape than ever showed up 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.”
Despite a run of performance bonuses, Vannata, 12-2-1, has won only one of his previous four fights. He was gallant in defeat to Tony Ferguson and David Teymur, and was rewarded for his efforts by way of ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses, but they remain additions to the L column. Even his brawl with Green, another ‘Fight of the Night’ recipient, saw him docked a point in round one and have to then settle for a share of the spoils at the bout’s conclusion.
The good news, however, is that should Vannata turn some of these epic performances into wins, he could quickly find himself fast-tracked up the rankings. And if anyone deserves a break, it’s him.
“I’d like to fight a top 20 guy next,” he said. “Towards the end of March or early April I’d like to fight someone in the top 20. 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-whuppings on everybody.”
Sounds like fun. For him, not them.