ONE heavyweight champ Brandon Vera has been dreaming of becoming a two-division titleholder since his days in the UFC. At ONE: Century – Part 2, scheduled for October 13 in Tokyo, he’ll have the chance to make that dream come true when he challenges Aung La N Sang for the ONE light heavyweight strap.
Vera says he’s feeling better than ever as this career-defining challenge draws closer.
“It’s ridiculous,” Vera told BJPENN.com from his home on Guam. “I haven’t felt this good, I haven’t felt this focused, I haven’t felt this energized in so long.”
That might come as a surprise to some, given that Vera is having to shed some weight to make it down to the ONE Championship light heavyweight limit. Yet he says a carefully orchestrated diet is making things very easy.
“The food is really fuelling this camp,” Vera said. “I have a guy that’s dialled us in. Everything is weighed out and measured. I’m eating exactly what I should be eating, and it’s crazy [how good I feel].”
There’s more to Vera’s training camp, of course, than dieting. Back at Alliance MMA in San Diego, he’s been putting in work with training partners such Phil Davis and Joey Beltran, both of whom have been doing their very best Aung La N Sang impressions.
“I’ve gotten to train with a bunch of great guys,” he said. “All the hard-goers, all the different flavors that Aung La N Sang represents.”
A quick look at Aung La N Sang’s Instagram account reveals that he’s been making similar efforts in the gym. The light heavyweight champion has actually enlisted the help of huge heavyweights like Stefan Struve and Steve Mowry in an effort to prepare himself for Vera’s size advantage.
Vera respects his rival’s diligence, but doubts it will pay off.
“I’m not that big, bro,” Vera laughed when discussing his foe’s work with Struve and Mowry, both of whom are much taller than he is. “I’m sure it helps with certain drills, but this is a game of millimetres.
“You have to understand exactly what you need to be doing when your opponent does X , Y, or Z. When you add half an inch, you’re okay. But when you’re adding two, three inches, four inches to height, to distance on that, it’s gonna throw you off.”
Needless to say, both Brandon Vera and Aung La N Sang are doing everything they can to ensure they’ll well-prepared when they enter the cage, which points to a very exciting matchup.
Vera is very confident it’s a matchup he’ll win.
Despite being bigger than his foe, he believes he’ll have a speed advantage in the cage, which could end up being a massive factor.
“Speed,” he said when asked about his advantages. “That’s going to be the biggest factor. You can break this fight down in so many different ways, but I’ve never been as fast as I am right now. I’ve never done so many damn reps in my life, and man, I’ve been in this game for a long time.
“I am for sure faster than Aung La.”
While Vera feels confident in his abilities, that’s not to suggest he’s expecting an easy fight. He’s paid close attention to Aung La N Sang’s career over the years, and is well aware of his foe’s grit.
“The thing I’m worried about most is his tenacity,” Vera said of his foe. “He’s like a wolverine. He’s like a honey badger. My job for the evening will be to turn him off. I don’t need to fight Aung La, I need to turn him off. One way or another I need to figure out how to finish the contest.
“He’s so tenacious,” he continued. “No matter what you do to him, he’s going to be in your face the whole time, punching you and kicking you. I don’t need that in my life!”
That, in a nutshell, is Vera’s gameplan heading into this bout: finish it so it doesn’t become a war.
“Our game plan is we’re going to finish him,” he said. “We’re going to finish the fight, we just don’t know when or how, we’ll just be always looking for the finish.”
If everything goes according to plan for Brandon Vera in Tokyo, he’ll accomplish a goal he’s been chasing for years. He’ll be a two-division champion. He’s tremendously excited that this goal is finally within reach.
“Most people never get to realize their dreams throughout their entire life or career,” he said. “I would say 90% of the population never gets a chance like this. I’m actually living the moment. I get to live the dream.
“I am taking full advantage of all of it. Brother, I’m more than ecstatic, and I can’t stop training because I need to make sure I’m ready for this scrap.”
A second title win does not mean the work stops for Vera, of course. If he becomes a two-division champion, he intends to actively defend both of his titles — though he knows doing so will be difficult. His schedule is already jam-packed with his duties as the ONE heavyweight champion and with the obligations of his burgeoning film career.
“I have to defend both titles,” he said plainly. “I think it’s going to be very difficult, but I’ve made the commitment to my entertainment [career] and to my martial arts career. Both my management groups, both companies know we need to make this work. Both of them, hearing that, they’ve decided to work together to make it happen. So I believe we can [balance it all].”
Suffice it to say that Brandon Vera still feels he has plenty of work to do. But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about retirement. His tentative plan, he says, is to fight four more times, then discuss the topic of retirement with his wife.
“I just talked to my wife, my big boss, and told her four more matches, guaranteed” he said. “Then after that, we’ll see. But since I’m feeling so good and I’m learning still, and I’m enjoying it, I don’t know.”
Before any of this can come to pass, of course, Vera must first deal with Aung La N Sang in Tokyo. He plans on doing so in emphatic fashion.
“I guarantee you this fight won’t go to the judges’ scorecards,” he said. “Fighting for 25 minutes? No thanks. Let’s figure this out quicker.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/2/2019.