Meet the Filipino Heavyweight Champ Who Wants To Make MMA The National Sport of The Philippines



If you were stuck in a dark alley with Brandon “The Truth” Vera, the heavyweight king of ONE Championship, you’d be in the safest place on earth. That’s because, on top of possessing one-punch knockout power, Brandon is the epitome of a gentle giant.

 

Brandon Vera is an intimidating man. Towering over me at 6’3, 250 lbs, Brandon is the type of dude you’d walk off the sidewalk if he were headed in your direction. But if you actually speak to Vera, you’ll find one of the kindest people in all of mixed martial arts. Always rocking a smile on his face or a joke in his back pocket, it’s easy to see why Vera is quickly becoming a cultural icon in the Philippines.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia to a Filipino father and an Italian mother, the Tagalog-fluent Brandon Vera developed a passion for wrestling and received a four-year scholarship to compete at Old Dominion University. He’s a veteran of the United States Airforce and competed in the UFC for almost 10 years before signing to ONE Championship.

Fresh off his second title defense against the former Cage Warriors heavyweight champion Mauro Cerilli, Brandon “The Truth” Vera sat down with Nextshark to discuss his relocation from the U.S to the Philippines, his thoughts on the UFC, and his vision to promote MMA across all of the Philippines.

The Real One Punch Man

Image via ONE Championship

NextShark: Congratulations on your recent win over Cerilli last November. That was my first MMA event and it was awesome to see another Filipino-American take home the gold. My two-part question is: 1.) What’s it like being a Filipino-American champ in the Philippines and 2.) Having grown up in Virginia, do you feel accepted as a man of the people over there in the Philippines or do you still feel like an outsider?

Brandon Vera: No, I don’t feel like an outsider over here at all. When I first arrived I felt welcome. Tagalog was my first language so when I came to the Philippines I felt right at home. The culture here is different compared to the states and it took some time to get used to, but I love it here.

NextShark: Is it a pace of life thing?

Brandon Vera: Yeah, it’s definitely a pace of life thing. Over here you might have work at 8am but because of our traffic, you might start your commute at 4am, then you come home at 8pm. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s trying to grind, but after work, during our breaks, we’re so happy to see each other. We want to connect. We don’t have 10 hours to just watch tv and hang out together, so we make the most out of our time.

NextShark: During the post-fight press conference for Conquest of Champions, you mentioned the magnitude of having five Filipino world champions at One Championship and that you wanted this great news to be spread all throughout the media.

I’m sure you can agree with this, but I truly feel like the Philippines is going to explode with more MMA. Coach Mark from Team Lakay said MMA gyms are popping up all over Baguiao City. How do you forecast the future of MMA in the Philippines? Do you think MMA has the potential to surpass boxing?

Brandon Vera: It’s growing over here fast. My goal is to turn MMA into a national sport here in the Philippines. You don’t need much either to start training. You don’t need fancy equipment, stadiums, or anything like that. You just need a mat.

NextShark: You’ve stated in previous interviews that the one defining trait that separates the UFC with ONE Championship is “respect.” You said on BJ Penn.com, “They had no respect for any of the athletes. The way they spoke to them, the way they treated them. The way that they talked to them or the way they looked at them.” Can you go into detail about that? Were there basic needs as a fighter that weren’t being addressed by the UFC?

Brandon Vera: I won’t go too much in detail about the UFC, but I know I’m not the only one. Fighter after fighter, you hear the same stories about how they’ve been treated. I think ONE Championship is way ahead in how they treat their fighters.

Brandon Vera on UFC Trash Talk and The Responsibility of Social Media Influencers

NextShark: The UFC seems to be headed in an “attitude era” direction where they’re looking for great characters who are marketable over fighters fighting the next challenger in line. What’s your take on trash talk and what’s it like working for a company like ONE Championship where the culture is totally different?

Brandon Vera: Some trash talk has a place in fighting, but if you look at real martial artists like Bruce Lee or Jet Li, there’s really no trash talk. This is how it should be done. We should honor the values of being a martial artist and respect fighters who put themselves out there. Trash talk can also backfire. Just look at Conor McGregor’s last fight.

NextShark: You just knocked out Cerilli, you’re working on a few movies, and you’re really transforming into an all-around businessman. Is this the Rennaissance of Brandon Vera? What’s your next move? How do you feel about all this change?

Brandon Vera: Every day I’m working hard and growing, and I’m still trying to be a better man. I came across a post on social media one day and some guy was ranting about how nowadays, everyone’s an influencer. Normally, I don’t read these things on social media but for some reason I did, and it stuck with me.

Everyone talks about being an influencer but people aren’t asking, “Are you a good or bad influence?” I’m trying to be a good influence and it starts with values like honor, humility, and respect.

NextShark: Any advice for Filipinos trying to find their way in life?

Brandon Vera: This is advice for anyone around the world: life is hard, but you gotta keep grinding. You can do whatever you want, but if and when you can, help someone out. Reach out every day and try to lend a helping hand. I say if and when because no one should ever force you to do anything you don’t want, but you gotta help each other out.

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