Characterized by big fights, brimming potential, lost opportunity, controversial decision losses and highlight-reel finishes, the roller coaster ride that has been Brandon “The Truth” Vera’s Ultimate Fighting Championship career has been one that’s seen myriad “trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, peaks and valleys,” by his own accord.
But on Tuesday, the UFC light-heavyweight was smack-dab in the middle of the whirlwind that will lead him into what he calls the biggest fight of his career, when Vera faces off with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of UFC on FOX 4 at the Staples Center on Aug. 4.
“I think this fight with Shogun is probably the ... single most important fight in my career,” said Vera, whose career includes bouts against current and former UFC champions Jon Jones, Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir. “I call it my Golden Ticket.
“This one fight can fix all my past indiscretions.”
On Tuesday, Vera sat down at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Burbank for a media luncheon, accompanied by his wife, Kerry, who is also a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter, and UFC Director of Communications Dave Sholler. Right after that, he was next door for a FOX Sports Radio interview on the Loose Cannons Radio Show.
Originally scheduled to fight James Te Huna on a UFC on Fuel TV card, Vera (12-5) was the right fighter in the right place to fill in for an injured Thiago Silva in a main event slot against Rua (20-6), a former UFC light-heavyweight champion.
“It’s like karma,” Vera, 34, said. “Everything happens for a reason.”
With the ascent to main-event status comes days like Tuesday, in which Vera had plenty of media appearances and was off to Anaheim for the San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game to make an appearance in the evening. But for Vera, who has headlined cards against Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer, and Jones, the current UFC light-heavyweight titlist, it’s nothing he can’t handle.
“It’s kind of a necessary evil,” said Vera of all the added media and appearances. “I get to fight Shogun, that’s my highlight. It’s like a dream come true.”
Having defeated the likes of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alistair Overeem in Japan’s PRIDE organization between 2003-2007, Rua was regarded as the No. 1-ranked fighter in his weight class by many at the time. Since joining the UFC, he’s beaten the likes of Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida, who he beat for the UFC title. Known for his lethal and aggressive stand-up style, Rua has developed a reputation for exciting fights and built up quite a fan base, which includes Vera.
“He’s one of my heroes,” Vera said.
Vera, who trains and lives in San Diego, comes from a muay Thai background and has been a contender in both the UFC heavyweight and light-heavyweight ranks. He rose to prominence as a UFC heavyweight with an 8-0 record to start his career, marked by a 4-0 run in the UFC in which he finished all of his opponents. Thereafter, a contract holdout of sorts slowed his rise before two straight losses.
He then moved down to light-heavyweight and, aside from a close split-decision loss to Keith Jardine, was on a roll until losing to Couture via unanimous decision in a highly controversial bout that many thought Vera had won. Since then, he’s lost to Jones and Silva, though the latter was overturned due to Silva testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. After a win in October of 2011 against Eliot Marshall, he now finds himself ready for another chance at the top of the UFC.
“This is the Brandon Vera that should’ve always been,” he said. “Not too many people get a second chance to redeem themselves and make it happen.”
Tickets for the Staples Center event go on sale Friday, with the card also including Machida (17-3) taking on Ryan Bader (14-2) and Vera’s training partner Phil Davis (9-1) facing Wagner Prado (8-0). Also scheduled, Manny Gamburyan (11-7), who trains at the Glendale Fighting Club and Main Event Gym in Glendale, takiing on Michihiro Omigawa (13-11-1) and Nam Phan (17-10), who has recently trained at times at Gracie Barra Burbank, taking on Cole Miller (18-10).