Brandon Vera: Earth Wind Fire Water

(Vera punished Couture with kicks to the leg and body at UFC 105.)

On Brandon Vera’s broad back is some serious ink: words in the Filipino writing system called Alibata that read mundo (earth), hangin’ (wind), apoy (fire), and tubig (water).

“The tattoos keep me grounded,” Vera told “I also have family and God on my legs. It’s a reminder that no matter how big your head gets, there’s a more important purpose. “

Vera kept that in mind while he was in the throes of a 1-3 slump. UFC boss Dana White blasted him in an interview with Sports Illustrated, questioning his pride, desire and dedication. Vera was to be one of the company’s shining lights to help revive the heavyweight division; instead Vera was sinking deeper into the abyss. Touted as a promising young future champion, he was becoming one of the biggest busts in the history of mixed martial arts.

“I was lost,” Vera said. “Questioning myself every day. “

Vera completely changed his diet and increased his training regimen to at least four times a week and returned to where he “started enjoying hurting people again.” Since dropping down to 205, Vera is 3-2 and 11-4 overall (7-4 UFC) entering his greatest challenge. On Sunday, Vera headlines the UFC’s debut show on Versus when he knuckles up with Jon Jones. Despite coming off a split-decision loss in his last fight, the majority had Vera defeating Randy Couture and an impressive win over Jones might vault The Truth to a title fight with the winner of the Lyoto Machida-Mauricio “Shogun” Rua rematch.

The first and most important step is figuring out how to stop Jones, a winner of nine of his 10 MMA bouts with his only loss via disqualification to Matt Hamill for illegal strikes and an ebullient fighting style that confounded Stephan Bonnar, took apart Jake O’Brien and was smashing Hamill before those 12-to-6 elbows forced the stoppage and the DQ.
“I’m gonna have to crack his aura,” Vera said. “It’s very easy to be the hammer – really hard to be the nail. A victory would be another step in the direction of the No. 3 guy. There’s Lyoto at No. 1, then Shogun No. 2. I want to be next.”

It’d be another significant step out of the abyss, from where even those who hit rock bottom build character. Vera neutralized Couture’s dirty boxing and dropped the active Hall of Famer, yet that controversial unanimous decision loss remains undigested. Out of a gut-wrenching defeat came a valuable discovery, one that may finally help push Vera over the top.

“No one – no one – will ever be able to out condition me,” said Vera, resolute about what he took out of the fight. “Randy looked up at the clock when there was about one minute left.”

Considering Vera’s career looked less than 60 seconds from extinction, a moral victory wasn’t a bad thing. The performance landed him another main event match, and in his mind, a win over Jones is absolute. Deep inside his soul the conclusion is unequivocal, there’s a bigger plan already in place.

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