By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Brandon Vera’s nickname says it all.
“The Truth” was a nickname given to him by his friend for how Vera tells it like it is. It also describes his ability as a skilled mixed martial artist.
Vera, a 31-year-old Filipino American UFC mixed martial arts fighter, is set for his next fight on Aug. 29 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Born and raised in Norfolk, Va., in a family of 10 siblings, Vera grew up in a traditional Filipino family. “My parents were strict, but [I] was thankful for it,” Vera said. The third oldest of seven boys and three girls, Vera remembers discipline and structure. “We ate rice three times a day. We took our shoes off inside the house. The house was very quiet. And there were few arguments between children and parents.”
Vera’s father is Filipino, and his birth mother is Italian American. His parents divorced when he was 3. He was raised by his Filipino stepmother.
His father worked multiple jobs to ensure that he made enough to feed his family. Vera speaks fondly of his father’s work ethic — how his father worked in a restaurant starting as a dishwasher, eventually working his way up to owning the establishment.
As a youth, Vera’s aggressive behavior led to trouble. “I was hard-headed, getting into trouble and fighting,” Vera said. Turning his aggression into something positive, Vera wrestled in high school, discovering a talent. Vera’s high school wrestling career led to a four-year full-ride scholarship with Old Dominion University’s wrestling team.
However, Vera left Old Dominion, saying that college was not for him.
Vera chose to enlist in the Air Force Academy after leaving school.
“I didn’t want to go to college, but I didn’t want to be a loser,” Vera said. “The military would get me structure and give me direction.” Vera enjoyed his time in the military, but he injured his arm, which required reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery on his arm did not heal as he had hoped, which forced him to be medically released from the Air Force.
After his medical discharge, Vera spent time as a personal trainer so that he could rehabilitate his arm. Vera’s future became clear when he watched a Randy Couture mixed martial arts (MMA) match and felt that he, too, could compete.
Getting into the sport
Vera competed in grappling tournaments on the East Coast. His first MMA fight took place in July 2002. He won with a first-round knockout. In 2003, he was discovered and got a job as an MMA trainer at a gym in San Diego. Vera was able to work as a trainer as he trained for fights.
In 2005, Vera made his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut and has been with the company ever since. He now competes in the light heavyweight division at 205 pounds.
Last year, Vera had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines as an ambassador for the UFC. He says the crowds in the Philippines are “super huge” with 4,000 spectators coming out to watch him perform a public workout at the Mall of Asia. With only 10 days to plan the event, the UFC was impressed by the many fans that turned out. The UFC has stated that it has plans on holding an event in the Philippines.
Pride in his Filipino heritage
Fighting is in the Vera family. Vera’s wife, Kerry, is a women’s MMA fighter. According to Sherdog.com, she won her first MMA fight in May. Two of Vera’s brothers and one of his sisters fight on local MMA cards.
“[Fighting, combat sports] is in our blood,” Vera said of the many successful Filipino fighters such as fellow UFC fighter Mark Munoz and boxer Manny Pacquiao. “You can’t keep us down. [Filipinos] are good at not losing.”
Vera strives to stay true to his Filipino roots. He has four tattoos on his back in Babayin, a native Filipino script. The tattoos signify mundo (earth), hangin (wind), tubig (water), and apoy (fire).
He researched the scripts extensively before going under the needle. “It’s my way of keeping myself grounded,” Vera said. He believes that Filipino Americans should educate themselves on the culture and history of the Philippines.
While Vera does not plan to retire from MMA anytime soon, he has opened up his own MMA training gym, Alliance Training Center, in the San Diego area. The gym offers various types of MMA classes to the public. Vera is looking into other business opportunities for when his career ends.
His opponent this Saturday is Krzysztof Soszynski, a former contestant on the reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter.” Vera predicts a victory for himself.
“I’m gonna whoop his ass,” Vera said in a calm, matter-of-fact way.
The Truth has spoken. ♦
For tickets to Vera’s fight against Krzysztof Sosczynski at UFC 102 in Portland, visit www.ticketmaster.com. For information on Vera, visit www.brandonvera.com. For information on his training gym, visit www.alliancemma.com.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.