MANILA, Philippines -- Plenty has changed for Filipino-American star Brandon "The Truth" Vera since he last stepped into the ONE Circle in October 2019.
He and his wife, Jessica Craven, welcomed their first son Atreyu Timothy to the world in July 2020. The 43-year-old veteran has had to make a few adjustments to his life, but Vera counts himself lucky as his wife has made it easy for him to balance his family life with his professional fighting career.
"All of this, even though it's just me inside that Circle, it's not really just me. It's all of us. When I talk about fighting, it's usually 'we' and 'us' and 'our' title," he said.
Ahead of his return to the Circle, Vera discussed how his preparations had changed now that they have Atreyu to consider.
"This camp was a little bit different because we have a baby. I didn't really notice because if it was sleeping time, if I needed to nap or if I needed to do something, and our son Atreyu was being loud or was being a baby, you know he wants to hang out and wants to go play, Nenja (Jessica) would go with him in a different part of the house and play with him so that I could rest," he said.
Vera has long been ONE Championship's heavyweight king. He captured the inaugural world title in 2015, and has held the belt since, making multiple successful title defenses.
But without Jessica, Vera believes his job would have been exponentially more difficult, especially now that he has important family obligations to attend to.
"The teamwork makes the dream work, and Nenja is my godsend," said Vera. "She made it so easy, I don't even have to worry about being a new father. She makes it so that all I have to worry about is training. She does all this while taking care of the baby and still getting me ready for all of the stuff we're doing, from training to moving, to getting ready to go to the events. She takes care of all of it."
"The only thing I've ever really been doing on the regular, because I'm the early riser, I'm the one who wakes up first, is I take Atreyu out of the bed with me and I get to feed him and I get to play with him in the morning before practice, so that Nenja can sleep a bit longer. It's kind of cool because I'm the early riser. Nenja likes to sleep in, so it's absolutely perfect," he added.
Part of being a father is being a great teacher, and Vera wants to guide Atreyu to becoming a valuable member of humanity. When asked what he would like to teach his son as he grows older, Vera said he wants to make sure Atreyu is raised with the right mindset.
"To not value stuff. Don't follow the rest of the world who are materialistic," Vera said of the lessons he wants his son to learn.
"I don't know when we fell into this, what happened, or what marketing got us into this. But stuff isn't valuable, people are. People are priceless. We can't make people again. It takes nine months to make a human being. It takes probably four weeks to put together an iPhone from raw materials to the finished product. I want to teach my son to value people, not things. I want to teach him how to help the world," he added.
Already, there are questions if Atreyu will follow in his footsteps as a mixed martial artist. While it's too early to tell, the one thing Vera is sure of is that he will fully support the path his son will ultimately take.
"I don't know what he's going to do with his life, but whatever he's doing, I really want him to make the world a better place. You don't have to be famous. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to be anything. Just make the world a better place," he said.
Vera faces Indian wrestling champion Arjan "Singh" Bhullar with his ONE Heavyweight World Title on the line. The two men square off in the headline bout at ONE: DANGAL, a tape delayed event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore that airs on Saturday, May 15.
ONE: DANGAL features a host of Indian martial arts stars, and aims to showcase the very best that India has to offer. Other Indian athletes scheduled for action include atomweight phenom Ritu "The Indian Tigress" Phogat, Gurdarshan "Saint Lion" Mangat, and Roshan Mainam.