The following is part one of a very entertaining two part interview with Brandon “The Truth” Vera, top contender in the UFC heavyweight division – who fights former champion Frank Mir at UFC 65 “Bad Intentions” on November 18th. To check out part two of the interview, check out the UFC newsboard at MMANews.com again tomorrow.
Luis Cruz for MMANews.com: Luis Cruz here at MMANews.com, I’m joined with Brandon “The Truth” Vera – who will be facing Frank Mir at UFC 65 next Saturday. We’re about a week and a half away, Brandon what’s going on man?
Brandon Vera: Not too much, man. Just got done training, laying in the bed right now.
MMANews.com: So what have you been up to since the last time we talked back before your fight with Assuerio Silva?
Brandon Vera: Oh man, went to the Phillipinnes. Hung out there for a while. Traveled a lot. Got back into the gym and started training, getting ready for Frank Mir. Traveled up to L.A. a lot to go train at City Boxing and on the east coast too. I just been traveling a lot and training a lot.
MMANews.com: Besides City Boxing who have you been training with, did you bring in anybody special for Mir’s ground game?
Brandon Vera: I went over to the east coast to train with Lloyd Irvin. We went over a whole bunch of things that Frank does – his kimura’s, armbar’s. We went over all the basic stuff that Frank’s been tapping people with and we’re working defensive and offensive game plans for it. And I actually roll with him so he’s an excellent training partner/coach.
MMANews.com: Now has there been any talks about this [fight with Mir] being a number one contender match, or anything?
Brandon Vera: There’s rumors. Nothing confirmed. I haven’t heard anything confirmed yet, but I mean [long pause] always possibilities.
MMANews.com: The UFC officials haven’t said anything themselves?
Brandon Vera: No, they haven’t said anything to me yet.
MMANews.com: Now, before we really get into your fight with Mir, the last time I talked to you, you said you wanted to really elevate your game before a title shot. You said you just didn’t want to win the title, you wanted to hold on to it for a while. Do you still feel the same, or do you think after a win here you’ll be ready for that?
Brandon Vera: I still feel the exact same, I mean I’m not comfortable holding the title yet, I mean I still got a couple things, I still get caught in practice with a couple things that I need to work on so I definitely want to be able to hold that title for a while. Like a ten-time champion or something, not just a flash in the pan, in-and-out reign. I still got things to work on, a title shot or not I do want to fight the best guys in the world. So I guess I’ll just have to take it as it comes.
MMANews.com: Yeah, if they offer it to you after this, you’ll accept it.
Brandon Vera: [laughs] Exactly.
MMANews.com: Alright, speaking of the champion – what are your thoughts on his upcoming fight with [Jeff] Monson.
Brandon Vera: Sylvia and Monson? If it stays on the feet, I see Tim winning. If it goes to the ground, I got Jeff winning. That’s just how it’s gonna be [laughs]. There’s nobody better in the UFC to take Tim down than Jeff Monson.
MMANews.com: That’s what I was gonna say next, if you thought that Monson was going to be able to get inside that long reach since there’s going to be a distinct size advantage here.
Brandon Vera: Oh yeah. But it’s also a disadvantage for Tim because once Jeff’s inside there’s no way Tim’s gonna get Jeff off him. It’s good at one point but bad at another point.
MMANews.com: He was able to keep Assuerio Silva away.
Brandon Vera: Assuerio wasn’t moving though, he only shot twice and when he did shoot he almost took Tim down, but Tim grabbed the fence.
MMANews.com: Oh yeah, I remember that. So what’s your prediction?
Brandon Vera: I don’t know, I really don’t know. I wanna say it’s 50/50, but the only reason I’m saying that is because it’s a matter of who implements their game first. If Tim keeps it on the feet, he’s gonna win. Jeff gets it to the ground, game over.
MMANews.com: That was my thoughts, I just don’t think Monson’s gonna be able to get inside Sylvia’s long reach. That long jab he throws out there, but I agree if he gets him down it’s gonna be ugly.
Brandon Vera: Game over, yeah. [laughs]
MMANews.com: [laughs] Now, either guy wins – what would be your strategy for each guy if you end up fighting them next?
Brandon Vera: The same. Both of them I’d have advantages and disadvantages fighting either one of those guys. I would stick to the same game plan I’m using against Mir. I’m going to be ready for five hard rounds, or three hard rounds with Mir, and expect a tough fight. Look to counter, look to advance, look to not impose my will but put on a good show while I’m out there fighting. With Tim I would strike a little bit more on the outside, with Jeff I would strike on the inside more. I know it seems opposite, because of the style but Tim’s slower and Jeff’s faster so I’d like to be inside banging with Jeff and outside banging with Tim. If that makes any sense.
MMANews.com: That actually sounds like the opposite of what I thought you’d say.
Brandon Vera: Exactly. It’d be the opposite of what they’d expect to happen too [laughs].
MMANews.com: Do you have a preference between the two about fighting?
Brandon Vera: No, not really. I mean I like Jeff a lot, Jeff’s a really cool cat. I’d like to fight Tim, but when I say I’d like to fight Tim it sounds like I want Jeff to lose and I don’t. I really hope Jeff wins. Jeff deserves the title man he’s been in the game for a long time, he’s paid his dues and I just really hope he pulls this off.
MMANews.com: The reason I asked you that because obviously the last time we talked you had some choice words for Sylvia. Now that of course dates back to when you first came into the company and you said he was talking bad about you. Now, you said you wanted to break his leg.
Brandon Vera: Oh yeah, that’s still gonna happen. That’s still one of my goals if me and Tim can get a fight, I’m gonna chop one of his legs off. I mean it’s calmed down a lot, he was talking a lot of smack about me, now he kinda left me alone.
MMANews.com: So you haven’t heard anything new?
Brandon Vera: Well, no. Well, last interview he did I heard him say something like well Brandon Vera, he thinks is the biggest threat in the division. Or Brandon Vera is up and coming, something like that. So he’s changed his tone a little.
MMANews.com: Alright [laughs] so you guys will be okay in the same building?
Brandon Vera: Oh yeah, this is just business to me I’m not the type to try and pick a fight in a club or something like that.
Brandon Vera: If I want to do something like that to people, I’ll have someone shoot them.
MMANews.com: [laughs] Oh damn [laughs more]
Brandon Vera: I mean business. I don’t mess around. Bitch, I make money!
MMANews.com: [laughs] Let’s get back to Frank Mir. Your game plan in this fight I assume is to keep it standing and avoid the takedown, is that correct?
Brandon Vera: Yes and no. I’m going to keep it standing, for as long as I can. But the game plan we have for him on the ground I like too. I’d rather be on the ground with Mir second round as opposed to the first. If we get on the ground in the second round it’s going to be fun, now the first round I’ll have to be nervous and be real cautious about what Frank is doing and worry about getting caught in anything. Frank’s retarded strong, for the first four minutes he’s a beast he can beat anybody in the first four minutes. I’ll try to keep it standing in the first round, second and third round I don’t care where it ends up, I’m game either way.
MMANews.com: Now, let’s say he does get you down in that first four minutes, how do you feel your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is compared to his?
Brandon Vera: I think it’s better. I really think I’m better than Frank on the ground.
MMANews.com: I was going to say, I don’t think a lot of people know how accomplished you are.
Brandon Vera: No, they don’t so I get to showcase it. But then again you have to think, in MMA like the tendancy is to want to strike on the ground but if you’re rolling with someone really good on the ground you have to be cautious how you strike, well, unless you’re Fedor [Emelianenko], then you can just punch people in the face all day long no matter what [laughs]. But I mean I’ll have to be careful if we get to the ground because he might slow the pace down and I don’t want to slow the pace down. I want this fight going the whole time. I want to make him work.
MMANews.com: Now my next question is what do you feel his weaknesses and strengths are. Now obviously one of the weaknesses you’re hinting at is his cardio which obviously has been a problem for him. Now, are you counting on him to tire quickly?
Brandon Vera: Yeah, I count on any of my opponents to tire quick if I’m able to push the pace that we train at. There’s no way I don’t think anybody can hang with me, at heavyweight. I think I keep it at a Tito [Ortiz] pace, Tito is the only guy that will try to push the pace the whole time simply because he knows he’s in shape. I’m trying to keep a pace like that, while having the clean technique and picking my shots. So yeah, I think that’s his [Frank Mir’s] weakness, and I think that’s everybody’s weakness. As long as I set the tone, set the pace. His strength? Oh man, he’s strong. His jiu-jitsu game is obviously in his strength category. Frank’s always been a strong ass dude, I remember watching him compete in a tournament that I did too, and he lost the match like 18-2 or 18-1, but he was throwing that rat-bastard all over the place. He still lost real bad but jesus christ he was throwing the kid all over the mat. I was like damn, that’s not cool.
MMANews.com: Now, what tournament was that?
Brandon Vera: Grapplers Quest, it was a super fight. It was him and Roy Nelson and he was going against Big Country. Big Country smoked him but still the first three-four minutes, he was tossing Big Country around.
MMANews.com: Now since his motorcycle accident, since he’s been back, do you think that’s had a big effect on him? Obviously to me he doesn’t look the same, physically. Do you think his game dropped a little bit since he’s been back?
Brandon Vera: Yes, I do. And it’s sad to say. He was the man before it, he was who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Frank Mir before. I wanted to be on the cover of Men’s Health [magazine], I wanted to get paid 80 and 80 [$80,000 to show, $80,000 to win – per fight] I wanted to be that guy. His game has dropped. But, he’s said in a couple of interviews he’s bringing it back and that he’s really focused to do it, so that’s what I’m preparing for. The Frank Mir of old, at his peak – not the Frank Mir that fought last time and the time before that.
MMANews.com: Yeah, that’s why you definitely gotta train because you never know who’s showing up. He made the same comments before his return, saying he was so amped to be back and then Pe De Pano [Marcio Cruz] kind of gave him a beating.
Brandon Vera: I know, that was rough though because he actually fought a guy on the ground in Pe De Pano, and everyone I talk to says Pe De Pano is the heaviest guy on top, like you won’t move if he’s on top of you. So I was like man, f*** that [laughs].
MMANews.com: He also almost got, I think he got an armbar maybe? He got caught by something by Dan Christison and almost got submitted.
Brandon Vera: Christison, yeah.
MMANews.com: I think it was an armbar, but he escaped. But he showed some vulnrability there.
Brandon Vera: Yeah, he did. A lot of people don’t know though, Dan Christison I’ve seen him fight three or four times now. He’s beat people with armbars, that’s his move. From his back, he’s like seven foot tall he throws that leg over your head and yanks on your arm. That’s his thing, but I can’t use that against Frank. He did get out and that’s somebody else’s number one move so I’m not going to fly underneath him and do an armbar.
MMANews.com: Before that people looked at him as being invincible on the ground.
Brandon Vera: Exactly.
MMANews.com: He got exposed a little bit there.
Brandon Vera: Yeah, he did [laughs].
MMANews.com: Now, shifting gears a little bit here. There’s a lot of people criticising the UFC’s heavyweight division. They call it probably one of the weakest divisions. What is your take on that, do you agree or disagree?
Brandon Vera: I disagree. I disagree. I have a goal, either 2008 or 2009 is to be able to beat Fedor. I know I’m not on his level yet, but that is my goal. For next year I need to work on myself, but 2008 or 2009 my goal is to beat Fedor and let everyone know the UFC heavyweight division is what it is. I mean, granted everyone keeps hyping up these certain guys, like Cheick Kongo, because he’s a good kickboxer, then he gets smashed by a wrestler. I just don’t think we have enough well rounded fighters yet, but we’re getting there. And the UFC is starting to improve more and more for that purpose. I would love to fight [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira, Shogun [Mauricio Rua], man Vanderlei [Silva] any of those PRIDE guys. I’m not scared of those guys, the only guy I’m nervous about fighting is Fedor because I have not found a hole in his game yet. I watch all his fights over and over again, there’s nothing, he doesn’t make a mistake. He hasn’t made a mistake yet.
MMANews.com: We talked about him last time and obviously you have a great deal of respect for him.
Brandon Vera: Yeah.
MMANews.com: Do you think he’ll still be undefeated in 2009 [laughs]?
Brandon Vera: Honestly, 2008 I think he’ll still be undefeated. Nobody will beat him next year. The only guy I think could beat him in that time is Mark Hunt and then even then Fedor knows if he’s fighting Mark Hunt he’s going to go to the ground with him.
MMANews.com: I think it’d look a lot like Josh Barnett and Hunt.
Brandon Vera: Yeah, man that pissed me off. I was hoping they was going to bang. Josh is one of my favorite fighters, to see him and Hunt bang? Shit, I’d love to watch them do that for three rounds – could you imagine?
MMANews.com: Did you catch the first PRIDE show in America?
Brandon Vera: Yeah.
MMANews.com: What did you think?
Brandon Vera: No comment [laughs].
Brandon Vera: No comment, man [still laughing].
MMANews.com: How about “it was okay”, anything?
Brandon Vera: It was, I don’t know what to say. The production, the live production – for the fans who was there at the event was awesome I guess.
MMANews.com: Yeah it was, I was there. It was actually pretty awesome.
Brandon Vera: The production for the fans at the event was off the chain. But man they trying to build a pay-per view, they’re definitely not doing it correctly [laughs].
MMANews.com: I think people can read between those lines.
Brandon Vera: Yeah.
MMANews.com: Now, let’s go into the future a little bit. If you win this fight, you go on to be champion. How long do you wait to go about getting that goal to win both titles [the other being the 205 lb. UFC title]?
Brandon Vera: Right away man, I’m not playing around. If I get one of them, I’ll ask them, I’ll say “I want to fight such and such or such and such or I’m not fighting again for a while.” Yeah, I’m getting gangster with it. I got one belt, give me the other one right now. But yeah, with training and everything why wait? Why am I gonna wait for, I mean I’d love to fight whoever holds the belt at 205.
MMANews.com: Who do you think is a good match up for you at 205, besides Chuck Liddell? How do you think you’d fare against people like Rashad [Evans], Forrest [Griffin], Tito [Ortiz], [Renato] Babalu, people like that?
Brandon Vera: I think it would be a good match. Those guys, all guys you just named are excellent in all aspects, I mean they are, they do what they do and they do it well, but so am I and I think I’m more well-rounded than any of those guys you just mentioned. So I’d go with my coaching, my coaches and I to come up with a game plan and then I’d implement it to beat those guys. I wouldn’t be too worried about them, I wouldn’t be too worried about any of them at all. I mean, honestly I would be worried about them but the fight to me would just be a good fight. I wouldn’t be like “aww man this might be my first loss,” or anything.
MMANews.com: You’d go in confident?
Brandon Vera: Yeah, I’d go in confident knowing that if I trained and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and I do what our coaches run over – then we should just be fine in the ring.
MMANews.com: Now, let’s say that you accomplish that and you get both titles – which one would you give back?
Brandon Vera: I don’t know, probably the 205 one so I don’t have to keep cutting weight.
MMANews.com: Aren’t you kind of small heavyweight?
Brandon Vera: Yeah, but I don’t like cutting weight.
MMANews.com: Oh, you don’t like cutting weight at all?
Brandon Vera: Hell no, I like to eat man. I like to eat good, I eat a lot.
MMANews.com: So how much would you have to cut?
Brandon Vera: 17 pounds? 20 pounds?
MMANews.com: Alright, so not too bad.
Brandon Vera: Nah man, not too bad at all. That’s what everyone else is doing. I just wouldn’t want to be doing it unless they paid me real well.
MMANews.com: Now give me your thoughts, we talked about it a little already, but give me your thoughts on the PRIDE heavyweight division. Guys like Mirko [CroCop], Fedor obviously, Nogueira, Barnett.
Brandon Vera: Barnett is probably the most well rounded heavyweight that PRIDE has. Yeah, he’s probably the best well rounded fighter.
MMANews.com: Aside from Fedor?
Brandon Vera: No, I don’t think Fedor is as well rounded as Barnett he’s just too dominant, too good at punching people in the face. The way he punches people man he’s trying to kill people, with both hands. He’s in a whole different class by himself.
MMANews.com: [Pawel] Nastula actually tagged him a few times when they were standing.
Brandon Vera: Who did?
MMANews.com: Nastula, the guy he fought in the PRIDE U.S. debut.
Brandon Vera: I don’t remember that fight. I remember [Kazuyuki[ Fujita caught him with a good one. Fujita’s looked like a tank.
MMANews.com: That guy hits hard. But yeah Barnett got tagged quite a few times.
Brandon Vera: Yeah it was a good fight.
MMANews.com: There’s a whole story behind it, the guy [Nastula] got tested for something like four steroids.