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UFC: Brad Pickett never feared London swansong would not go ahead after Henry Briones withdrawal

PUBLISHED: 14:00 18 March 2017

Brad Pickett brought his dog with him to the media day ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson

Brad Pickett brought his dog with him to the media day ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson

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Ecuador’s Marlon Vera has stepped in at the 11th hour to face ‘One Punch’ in his final fight

Bow boy Brad Pickett bows out of mixed martial arts on Saturday on the UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson bill at the O2 Arena, but his dream ending so nearly became a nightmare.

The 38-year-old was due to fight Mexico’s Henry Briones in London after two previous bouts between the stars had previously been postponed.

Just last Friday, though, the Mexican was forced to withdraw, leaving a mad scramble to arrange a new opponent for Pickett.

The man known as ‘One Punch’ will now face Ecuadorian Marlon Vera instead, but Pickett insists he never once feared that he would not end his career in the capital this weekend.

Brad Pickett (left) faces off against Marlon Vera on the media day ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson Brad Pickett (left) faces off against Marlon Vera on the media day ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson

“Honestly, I wasn’t worried one bit,” said the Londoner. “When Briones pulled out, I was like ‘whatever, it’s happened again’.

“It wasn’t a case that I was worried about finding an opponent, I would have fought anyone at any weight class.

“Weight would not have been an issue, I would have said yes to anybody – get a dustman off the street, fine.

“It didn’t matter who was opposite me Saturday night because I have my own job to do.”

Pickett heads into his final fight on the back of two successive defeats against Urijah Faber and Iuri Alcantara.

While the loss to Faber was perhaps expected, with Pickett coming up against one the sport’s pioneers, the Alcantara result was something of a surprise.

And Pickett admits that defeat, which took place in Manchester last October, made him start to think his time was up in mixed marital arts.

“Retiring in London didn’t happen by mistake, I’d planned this for a long time,” added the bantamweight.

“When I fought Alcantara in Manchester, that camp was the worst one I’d had in my life and I hated it.

“I was away from home for so long and I didn’t like the style of the opponent, but I accepted it.

“I’ve lost fights before, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never lost in that fashion where I never got to do anything.

“It was like after weeks of training, what the hell was that for after that performance?

“In my head, I knew I wanted to retire in my home town. The fight with Faber happened in between, but that was a great opportunity and one I had to snatch.”

Pickett will not be the only east Londoner in action on the card at the O2, with Poplar’s Darren Stewart also in action.

The man known as ‘The Dentist’ is scheduled to face Brazilian Francimar Barroso, who he previously fought in Sao Paulo last year in a match that was controversially declared a no contest.

But Pickett says he is pleased to see that there is so much young British talent coming through the ranks.

“There’s so many young athletic guys coming through now, so if I was any part to do with coming through, I’m happy,” he added.

• Watch UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson live on BT Sport from 9pm on March 18, or catch the UFC Fight Pass Prelims from 5.30pm.

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