Filipino-American superstar Brandon Vera has nothing more to prove in mixed martial arts (MMA).
All in all, he has spent 17 long and grueling years in the sport, starting with his first bout in 2002. Through his long stint at the Ultimate Fighting Championship to his resurgence at ONE, he has fought and won many battles inside the ring. If, today, he chose to walk away and live a more relaxed life outside of the cage, no one would think he didn't deserve to do so.
More on MMA greats:
But he isn't walking away—not today, and not any time soon. Despite all the accolades and recognition he has earned, the native of Norfolk, Virginia believes that there is still a long way to go before his fighting days are over. “I just feel that the work is not yet done. As a fighter, I don’t know when I’m going to retire,” he says. “I want to get in as many titles and fights as I can before I get the feeling that I need to stop.”
With Vera relishing his current successes, it is highly unlikely that he’ll decide to hang up his gloves any time soon. “I am savoring the opportunity given to me by ONE Championship,” he stresses. “As long as my body doesn’t tell me to stop, I will keep on pushing forward.” His record in the Singapore-based promotion stands at 4-0, winning all of his bouts by way of knockout in the first round.
Age is just a number
At 41 years old—a stage where many athletes decide to call it a day—Vera feels like a decade younger. “I want to challenge myself and find the best athletes in the world to compete against, until my body doesn’t want to do it anymore,” he explains. “Now, I think that I have improved even more than before.”
If anyone thinks that his best days are in the rearview mirror, ONE Championship’s heavyweight kingpin begs to disagree.
“Age is just a number,” Vera quips. “Anything is possible if you work for it.”
When he does walk away and call it a career, the champion wants to be certain of it—unlike a number of fighters who have announced their retirement only to come back eventually.
“I told ONE Championship this when I first signed with them a few years back, that I’d like to retire from fighting when I’m 40,” he shares. “I am turning 42 this year. I am just not ready to call it off yet.”
Vera is pleasantly surprised by his longevity and the fact he has managed to squeeze a few extra years out of his MMA run. “My brain is always going to want to do this forever, but my body, I figure maybe five more years, maybe,” he says.
It was recently announced that Vera will challenge two-division titlist Aung La N Sang for the light heavyweight championship at ONE: Century. This will take place in Tokyo, Japan on October 13.
Surprisingly, Vera has been working on moving down to the organization’s standard light heavyweight limit of 102.1 kilograms as early as the first quarter of this year. It is unusual for fighters to move down in weight toward the end of their careers, but Vera has been bouncing between light heavyweight and heavyweight for over a decade now. He is confident that he will be on weight in time for his showdown against Myanmar’s most popular athlete.
“Cutting the weight is no problem, but performing at that weight and having the energy and stamina have always been my problem,” he admits. “That’s why I began cutting weight earlier this year so I can start training on a heavy load in this weight class.”
If Vera wins over Aung La N Sang, he will go down on record as the first Filipino to simultaneously hold two world titles in different weight classes. “I want to make history. I already did as the first Filipino heavyweight champion of the world. I am raising the bar by becoming the first Filipino to win world titles in two different weight classes in this sport,” he vows.
Vera has been a busy man since he decided to move to the Philippines a few years back. He starred in the hit movie BuyBust, which premiered in cinemas last year, and is vocal about possibly running for office. But he is able to stay on top of his game amid his busy schedule because he knows when it’s time to focus on his preparations.
“I always make sure that I am committed in what I do. I guess that’s my secret,” Vera discloses. “In every bout, I just want to go in, fully prepared, pushing the pace, and make them dance to my tune. My last fight is an affirmation that I can still do it.”
A two-year absence in the cage did not affect his performance against Mauro Cerilli last November, which saw him knocking out the Italian hard-hitter with one punch to successfully defend his heavyweight belt.
For Vera, his ultimate goal is to be known as one of the greatest competitors to ever set foot in the cage.
“It’s my goal to become one of the best in the history of this sport,” he declares. “No one is going to stop me.”