Filipino-American heavyweight fighter Brandon “The Truth” Vera will be closing out the year on a high note, after successfully defending his ONE Heavyweight World Championship against Italian challenger Mauro Cerilli at ONE: Conquest of Champions last November 23rd in Manila.
Vera, who came back from a near-two year hiatus from in-cage competition, needed only 64 seconds to dispose of Cerilli and remain ONE’s heavyweight king. His victory also reinforced a winning streak for the Philippines—we slew 2018 with not one, not two, but five Filipino world champions under the ONE Championship banner.
Being part of that select group, Vera could not be more proud of what he and his fellow Pinoy warriors have been able to accomplish in the world of mixed martial arts. Vera shared that today’s state of Filipino MMA is a far cry from how things were when he was just starting out in the business himself. “When I first started in martial arts, and competing around the world, it was just me, I was the only Filipino. Everyone thought I was crazy,” Vera says. “‘What are you doing that for? Go be a nurse, go open a restaurant,’ diba? ‘Go become an attorney or a doctor.’”
Now, stars like Vera and Eduard Folayang—who earlier that night gave the Philippines their fifth ONE world title in 2018 after defeating Amir Khan to become the new ONE Lightweight World Champion— have all helped put Filipino MMA on the map. “It’s not just here, it’s the fact that alam na sa buong mundo, kayang-kaya na talaga ng Pinoy,” Vera says proudly. “I said it in the cage, there’s five world championships here in the Philippines, that is a huge deal. That should be on front page, that should be on every news report. We are a very small country compared to the rest of the world, and we own five belts in an organization that has eleven weight [classes]. We have almost half of their belts in our homeland,” he continues.
Seeing how his compatriots have come up through the ranks is a special thing, and the 41-year- old champion says that he’s more than happy to be a part of this Filipino MMA resurgence. “To be a part of it, to be part of those five belts, to own almost half in the world, I am very proud of that fact.” Five Filipino world champions (six including Team Lakay’s Stephen Loman, who’s the Brave Combat Federation Bantamweight World Champion) is definitely impressive, but Vera believes that there can be more, and he’s very much willing to help develop more Filipino world champions.
“Sinabi ko, matagal na, Alliance Training Center, it’s about 8,000 square feet, 192 parking spaces, that’s what I’m going to give back to the Philippines. I’m going to give you a place where you can come train and get world class teaching,” Vera announced. “One of our partners will be allowing us to fly world class talent in and out, maybe every quarter. That’s a big deal because most gyms don’t get to do that around the world. I’m very excited and I’m very ecstatic to give that back. I want to see it grow.”
Alliance Training Center is the gym that Vera founded in San Diego, California. Over the years, Alliance has developed a number of stars and champions such as former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, former Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Phil Davis, former Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler, and UFC Light Heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson.
Referring to these wins, Vera emphatically adds, “Are you kidding me, five? Why not all. Kunin na natin lahat, kaya naman eh, we can do it. That’s the goal, that’s my goal for the Philippines.
As for Vera’s future plans, theBuyBust star will continue to be a very busy man, and this time he says, it will be both in and outside the cage. “Pag-baba ko sa ring, nakausap ko yung management group, and we already have three movies in the books, two here and one in Hong Kong.” Vera promised however, that these new projects in the pipeline won’t be keeping him away from the cage for another two years again. “They’re not going to be two years, I promise, I’ll never be away that long again.”
In fact, Vera is eyeing a major superfight in 2019 when ONE heads to Japan. “I’ve asked to fight again, October of next year in Japan, and I’ve asked to fight whoever is holding the light heavyweight title, that’s who I want to fight next,” Vera revealed. “Right now it’s Aung La [N Sang], he’s an amazing athlete. If you don’t know Aung La, you don’t know what you’re talking about here. That’s who I’ve asked to fight next.”
It looks like 2019 is going to be another busy year for Vera.
Photographs courtesy of ONE Championship