Longtime UFC fighter Brandon “The Truth” Vera is on deck to face Eliot Marshall at UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz this evening at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The 34-year-old returns to the Octagon after being briefly cut by the UFC following his unanimous decision loss to a steroid-fueled Thiago Silva, given another chance in the promotion when Silva’s performance enhancing drug use came to light.
Vera took some time this week to speak with FightLine about his upcoming fight, his eagerness to get back into the thick of things in the light heavyweight division, returning to his home of Norfolk, Virginia and alma mater of Old Dominion University to train for the fight and much more. Check it out below.
Mark Wayne: I heard you were back around ODU sharpening up your wrestling with coach Steve Martin and the boys, as well as training with the crew at Hybrid MMA. How important has returning to your roots been in this camp and what have you taken away from those experiences?
Brandon Vera: It’s just important to get back to what first started working, that was wrestling and basic muay Thai. To get back home and training… it was a great time. It was great being back home in Norfolk and getting training in.
MW: What’s your mindset heading into this weekend? Are you most concerned with just picking up the win to secure your spot back in the UFC for now, or are you looking to make a statement, maybe prove something to yourself or some of your doubters?
BV: I don’t think about that kind of stuff. I think y’all worry about that more than the fighters do. I’m just going out there trying to fight, knock his a** out.
MW: You’ve been through a lot over recent years, with the home invasion and what must have been the most frustrating stretch of your career, but you sound like you’ve really come through the woods, maybe have found some perspective in regards to your MMA career. What’s the biggest difference in your attitude toward fighting now than, say, two years ago?
BV: I can say I’ve learned more, I guess. I feel like I did when I first started fighting. I have a whole bunch of stuff to do that I never accomplished because: life. I’m looking forward to getting back on track.
MW: How will that come into play this weekend, that mindset?
BV: You’ll see a lot more viciousness coming from me. You’ll see what I used to look like, what I should’ve been looking like the whole time I was fighting.
MW: The 205lbs. division has changed pretty considerably over the past year or so, in terms of who’s on top and who’s fallen off. What’s your take on the light heavyweight landscape right now, who’s really impressing you?
BV: A lot of them, actually. A lot. I like watching Jones fight man, and I still like watching Machida fight. So, it’s pretty amazing. The whole 205lbs. division is tough. Styles make matches and there are a lot of different styles in our weight class. I can’t wait to get back in the mix, man. Get back on that ladder and get back up to the title.
MW: That leads into my next question actually. As far Jon Jones goes, you’ve said recently that, despite how your first fight went, you think you have what it takes to take out the champ. What do you think it takes to get rid of Jon Jones?
BV: To get rid of him, man? You have to be tenacious like him. He’s young and hungry and you have to be even more hungry than him. You have to be willing to sacrifice your body to get with him and understand that Jon Jones is a smart fighter, he’s not a banger. He’ll try to exploit the weak areas you have. The first time I fought him, I didn’t respect him at all and that was a super huge mistake. I think a lot of people that fight him the first time end up making that mistake, not respecting his skillset and I for sure won’t do that again.
MW: We know your personal feelings on Thiago Silva – you won’t be calling him up to hang out anytime soon – but is that rematch something you really want, or do you just want to get back in there and fight whoever lines up?
BV: I want to get back in the mix and keep fighting man. I just want to get back in the fight game and get on that ladder, whoever’s in front of me I plan on knocking off. If he happens to be one of them, I’m in.
MW: What do you think of Eliot Marshall as an opponent? What does he bring to the table that you see being the most threatening?
BV: He’s got great jiu-jitsu. I know he’s gonna want to take this fight to the ground, he’s with the Greg Jackson camp, that’s kind of their thing, to take people to the ground or stall them out for the first round, feel them out. It’s not a big secret. I want to be able to hit this guy and not be stalled out. It’s going to be part of the gameplan, to stop him from implementing his.
MW: If things go perfectly for you on Saturday night, what will it look like?
BV: Oh man, he’ll be bleeding, laid out flat. Flat down on the mat. In a perfect world, that’s exactly how it would be.
MW: How do you see the main event between Penn and Diaz panning out?
BV: It’s gonna be a good fight man. Both guys are great strikers and they’re both excellent on the ground, it’s just gonna come down to BJ’s cardio, I think.
MW: Are there any fights left in 2011 that you’re going to be watching closely, or are looking forward to as a fan?
BV: Honestly, just Jones and Machida. Oh, and Muñoz and Chris Leben, next weekend. That’s gonna be a good one, I’m super excited to watch that fight. I’m friends with both of them, but I think Muñoz is gonna take it for sure. I think his skillset is too diverse for Leben.
In a smart world, you don’t swing with Chris Leben, unless you’re Anderson Silva. You just don’t swing with that dude, you don’t know what the hell he’s gonna throw at you.
MW: I spoke with Brian Stann recently, he’s been using TRX and has been really happy with the results. I hear you’ve been using TRX in your training as well, can you talk some about that?
BV: TRX is awesome, I’ve been using it all through camp. I’ve been able to incorporate it in my training sessions along with my other three-a-day workouts. … I’ve noticed a huge difference man. I’m stronger, I feel like I’m lifting weights but I’m not, I’m just using my body weight. It’s such an important piece of equipment that is so underutilized in our sport, but I think people are starting to catch on, especially with Brian Stann using it and Frankie Edgar.
I think it’s an overall thing. It just make you stronger everywhere, and your joints don’t work. And that’s huge when you have three more training sessions to do throughout the day.