LAS VEGAS — Rob Font not only lost the biggest fight of his career, but two of the three judges didn’t give him a round and the third saw him just winning one of the five rounds.
Yet, Font's loss to José Aldo on Dec. 4 at Apex in Las Vegas could be remembered down the line in a positive way if Font’s career goes the way he hopes.
On Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Apex, he’ll meet Marlon “Chito” Vera in the main event of UFC Vegas 53 in a critical bout in the UFC’s crowded bantamweight division.
It will also be Font’s third consecutive main event, following on the heels of five-round bouts against Cody Garbrandt and Aldo.
“There’s a reason why [UFC management] has given me another main event,” Font said. "They know I deliver. They know what to expect from me now.”
Though Font defeated Garbrandt, a former bantamweight champion, last May, that bout wasn’t as significant to him as the loss to Aldo in December. A former featherweight champion and among the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time, Aldo defeated Font but didn’t have an easy time of it.
It was a brilliant, fast-paced, back-and-forth fight in which Aldo was just a little better each time.
The difference between winning and losing at the highest level of any sport, where the best in the world are going against each other, is tiny. Font found that out against Aldo.
He fought well and, against a lot of guys, would have scored a comfortable win. But when you’re facing a legend, the tiny mistakes that are overlooked in most bouts are amplified and carry great meaning.
Font looks back on that fight and, while disappointed he lost, knows it says something about where he stands in this sport.
“Aldo is one of the best to do this,” Font said. “There’s a lot to take away from a fight like that, but I am convinced it’s going to make me better in the long run having been in there and had that experience.”
The first three rounds were competitive, but Font knew he was behind. He went after the finish in the final two rounds and began to get pieced up by Aldo because he knew what was coming.
It was a huge fight for Aldo because he was trying to get back into the bantamweight title picture and he delivered.
But Font did, too, and goes into the fight with Vera knowing his dreams of having a belt around his waist aren’t delusional.
Font is fifth in the UFC's current rankings behind No. 1 Petr Yan, No. 2 T.J. Dillashaw, Aldo and Garbrandt. Each of the guys ahead of him in the rankings is a former bantamweight champion, though Yan was an interim champion.
Add former champion Henry Cejudo to that mix, because he’s ending his retirement, and the top half of the division is stacked like never before.
Vera is No. 8 and intent on pushing into the top five, so he figures to be on top of his game.
“When you get to this point, there is no such thing as an easy fight,” Font said. “Chito brings it and he’s very hungry. I know he’s going to come hard. But I think his style meshes pretty well with my style. I like this fight and I want to leave an impression.”
There are some who believe bantamweight is already MMA’s best division, but that’s going to increase over time as young veterans like Font keep moving and newcomers down in the rankings like Song Yadong make their mark.
It’s a crowded landscape and the pressure to win is enormous because there is no margin for error. But Font is confident in his team and in his preparation and believes he’s going to be there for the long haul.
“I feel like I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing and that I have the potential to take it even further,” Font said. “It’s a progression and you have to continually improve and find ways to add to your game.”
Font has done that and it’s led him to a 9-4 UFC record and four wins in his last five bouts. Even though he’s 34, the best may be yet to come and the proof could be if you look closely at what happened in that Aldo fight.