Few fighters have experienced the highs and lows Brandon Vera has endured over the past five years. In 2006, “The Truth” had established himself as a heavyweight to beat who had designs on winning the division’s title, then moving down to 205 pounds and going after the light heavyweight championship. And, with three straight opening round wins including the absolute destruction of Frank Mir, few doubted his ability to do so.
However, Vera ended up sitting on the sidelines for nearly a year due to a contractual dispute and hasn’t been the same since, going 3-5 in the following eight fights with an additional loss that was erased after opponent Thiago Silva, who Vera openly labeled a “piece of sh*t”, tested positive for steroid use. In fact, it’s been more than two years since Vera had his hand raised inside the Octagon, and as a result the Californian was actually cut from the UFC’s roster only to be brought back based on Silva’s drug use.
In addition to his in-ring struggles Vera also endured a handful of fight-related injuries, such as a broken orbital bone courtesy of Jon Jones, and experienced a real life nightmare when held at gunpoint during a home invasion.
The 34-year old spoke some about how the adversity he faced bumped MMA down his list of priorities, the price he paid for it, and how his approach has changed over the last few months while training for a fight this Saturday night against Eliot Marshall at UFC 137.
“My ego got in the way,” said Vera in a conversation with the UFC’s website. “It started getting in the way of me becoming a complete MMA fighter. I stopped going to Master Lloyd’s (Lloyd Irvin), and there were a lot of little mental things too. Things started changing from the Keith Jardine fight on and I didn’t go back to train at Master Lloyd’s since the Jardine fight. I had a couple life-changing events happen right before the Jardine fight and during the fight and I honestly believe that MMA fell off the list. It wasn’t number one on my list anymore. It became number three in my life. I’m always down to knock somebody out or go punch somebody, but I wasn’t pushing myself extra. I would go to practice and I’d be looking at the time – oh God, how many more rounds we got? And now, I’m there until coach says ‘Time.’ Now, I feel like I did when I first came in the sport, and I realize that I have a lot to learn and I’m open to learning again. I’m back in school and back on the grind.”
As far as some of the changes fans should expect to see this weekend, Vera explained, “I’ve got my wrestling back in order. When I first started fighting, my wrestling was so good that I could stand up with people because you could never take me down, or if you did, I got right back up. I got to the point in my career where I just wanted to stand up and wanted to force everybody to stand up with me, and for a little while everybody did want to find out if they could stand with me. Now, nobody wants to find out anymore.”
“Everybody’s seen me at my highs, they’ve seen me at my lows, and everybody wants to see the story continue, and I’m not ready for it to be done yet,” concluded Vera. “It’s been a rough ride, peaks and valleys, but I told everybody, don’t blink and don’t stop believing, because I’m here.”
Fans can watch Vera and Marshall fight on the Facebook portion of the UFC 137 prelims starting at approximately 5:45 PM EST.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC
MMATraining Take: Marshall, who is skilled but not nearly an elite competitor, should be a good test to see exactly where Vera is hate. If he can go out and dominate it will show the 34-year old still has some gas left in his take; if he looks lackluster en route to a decision it will show he’s the same fighter he has been for the past few years; if he loses it shows he’s washed up and that he’ll headed to free agency in the following days.