At 41-years-old, ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera is closer to the end of his professional career than the beginning. However, this weekend, the veteran athlete intends to show the world he is not about to hang up his gloves just yet when he attempts to capture Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship.
The pair will face off in the main event of ONE: Century part II, which takes place inside Tokyo’s Ryōgoku Kokugikan. The bout between two of the promotion’s most popular athletes is expected to generate a viewing audience in the millions. Aung La, is perhaps Myanmar’s most well-known sporting figure, while American-born Filipino and Manila resident Vera also has a sizeable fanbase.
Vera has headlined previous ONE events, but none of them have been on the scale as ONE: Century. The size of the event has meant even more promotional work the aspiring two-division world champion.
“I understand that everything outside the fight itself is part of the business and part of being a champion, but I just try to keep myself as focused on the task at hand as possible. Especially this upcoming fight with Aung La,” Vera explained to LowKick MMA.
“He’s a very, very talented fighter and he’s a two-division champion for a reason, so I have to be very focused and very prepared when I step into the Circle with him. I’ve been excited for this fight since it was announced, so up until they shut the cage door, I’m just going to keep myself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally prepared and focused for this fight to be able to get the job done.”
Since arriving at the Singapore-based promotion in 2015, Vera has notched up four-straight wins, none of which have gone past the opening round. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Aung La will be the toughest test he has faced under the ONE banner. The 34-year-old, who trains in Florida at Hard Knocks 365, is riding a six-bout winning streak and currently holds both the ONE lightweight and middleweight titles.
It’s a matchup that seems to have gotten Vera’s competitive juices flowing.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever been this hungry, and this motivated for a fight. Aung La Is a man that I respect highly, I’ve said that multiple times, but this is a job. Getting that ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship is the goal, and that’s all that is on my mind right now. I approached this fight with that goal in mind, and I will do everything in my power to achieve that goal,” Vera said
He is also quick to calm any fears that fans have about his ability to make weight as it has been almost a decade since he last fought at lightweight.
“It [training camp] has gone really well. Obviously, I’ve had to deal with a bit more for this camp because of the weight cut, but I had a headstart in that, and I just stuck to the plan. I was disciplined in my diet, so there wasn’t much trouble in cutting down.”
Vera watched ONE’s inaugural Japanese show from the sidelines, but this Sunday, for the first time in his career, he will finally get to trade leather in MMA’s spiritual homeland.
“I’m very, very excited. I was able to see how massive the last show here was, and obviously, as a martial artist, it’s always going to be a goal to be able to compete in Japan, so yes, I’m excited to be competing here for the first time. I know it’s going to be a great night of fights, and I promise, I know Aung La will promise too, that we’ll be putting on a show,” Vera explained.
ONE Championship has developed a lot in the time that Vera has been with the company. Its fanbase and global reach have expanded, while its roster continues adding new talent to its ranks. These developments and changes and have not gone unnoticed by Vera, who has formed a strong bond with the promotion.
“I will always be proud to be a part of ONE Championship, and seeing the promotion as well as the sport grow so much from the time I came into how it is now, it’s just so rewarding to see how far it’s come. I know that I still have so much to offer.
“Being the ONE Heavyweight World Champion, I feel that there’s a bit of a responsibility on my part to help keep the company growing and improving and when the time comes that I step away from the sport, I will always look at ONE and I will always be happy to say that I helped in bringing ONE to where it is now.”
The prelims for ONE: CENTURY PART II start on B/R Live at 4:00 am (EST). The main card will start at 6:30 am EST on Sunday, 13 October.