Brandon Vera has the loftiest goal imaginable for an MMA fighter, and even if you don't think he can do it, he's not afraid to say it publicly: Vera wants to hold the UFC heavyweight belt and the UFC light heavyweight belt simultaneously. That's the goal that drives him.
Never mind that Vera has never even been the No. 1 contender for either title, Vera insists that he can do it. But in the mean time, he's just focused on beating Krzysztof Soszynski, the man who will be on the other side of the Octagon from Vera on August 29 at UFC 102. In an interview with FanHouse, Vera discussed the upcoming fight and his long-term plans in the sport. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: You were originally slated to fight Matt Hamill, and then he had to pull out with an injury, giving you Krzysztof instead. When your opponent changes, does that change your preparation?
Brandon Vera: No, it hasn't changed my preparation at all. I'm getting ready for an MMA fight just as I would if I were fighting anybody else. The only thing I will say that has changed is that Matt is a conventional fighter and Krzysztof is a southpaw.
So does that mean you need southpaw sparring partners?
Yes, my sparring partners did change. Other than that, the way I'm preparing myself is exactly the same.
We're just a little over a week away from the fight. Have you reached the point in your training where you're backing off and taking it a little easier?
I wish. I have three workouts today. I'm working really hard.
In your last fight, when you beat Mike Patt, I thought you got back to your kickboxing roots, and your use of leg kicks reminded me of your kickboxing teacher, Rob Kaman. Is it important to you to focus on doing what you do best?
I guess it's important, but I think it was less about getting back to my kickboxing roots than about getting back to the right frame of mind. I went into that fight wanting to make my opponent pay for getting into the Octagon with me. That's how I have to approach it: I want to make the other person in the Octagon hurt.
Which other fighters have you trained with as you get ready for this fight?
A lot of great guys. Junior dos Santos, who's fighting Mirko Cro Cop next month. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Travis Browne. Dominick Cruz. Shane del Rosario. So many different people.
What has working with a legend like Nogueira been like? Has he helped you with your Brazilian jiu jitsu?
Oh, man. Nogueira shows me so many things. He's been a big plus.
Let's move to a different subject: Are you on Twitter?
I'm just getting on and trying to figure it out.
I'm on Twitter and when I tweeted that I was going to interview you, I got a lot of responses from people asking about you wanting to be a champion at both light heavyweight and heavyweight. Is that still something that's on your mind?
Always. It will be my goal until it's realized. It's the almost impossible goal. If you can do that you'll go down in history as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived. That's the ultimate goal. That's one of my dreams.
But is that realistic? Aren't you pretty much established as a light heavyweight fighter, not a heavyweight, at least for the forseeable future?
Yes, I'll be fighting at light heavyweight for the forseeable future.
So you'd be going for the light heavyweight belt first. Where do you think you fit into the light heavyweight division? How many wins do you think you'd need before you get a title shot?
I don't know. But I think any given day, anybody in the Top 10 could beat the champ. There are so many good fighters in the UFC light heavyweight division, that I don't know if you can even say who's where. I just have to go in there, fight, and prove it.
Do you give a lot of thought to where you fit in the division, how you can climb the rankings until you get a title shot?
No. It's all about Krzyzstof. He's my No. 1 priority. I don't have any other priotities besides beating him. Whatever happens after that, happens.
Have you watched much tape of Krzyzstof as you prepare for him?
No. I watched film of him once. That's it.
Really? That's all?
I don't really watch a whole lot of film of my opponents. I just try to get an idea of what they'll try to do and then focus on what I'm going to do.
What was the one fight of his that you did watch?
His fight at UFC 97, when he got Brian Stann in a kimura.
I was at the Bellator event in Chicago when your wife won her MMA debut. How is she doing?
She's doing great. She's taking care of me right now.
When will she fight again?
She's been talking to both Bellator and Strikeforce, and she'll fight in one of those, whoever can get her a fight first.
Do you enjoy watching Kerry fight?
No. I hate watching her fight. I get nervous and I don't want to see her get hit.
You've talked about having pride in your Filipino heritage. Do you hope to fight for the UFC in the Philippines?
Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta have talked about it. It's a possibility. I'd love to do that.
Are there a lot of UFC fans in the Philippines?
Yes. It's huge. There was a promotional event for the UFC in the Philippines and it was huge. People said they had never seen anything like it.
When do you think it could happen? Maybe as soon as next year?
They've never told me a date, but I hope it happens.
How's your contract? Are you satisfied with what you're getting paid?
Yes. I'm happy with where I'm at, I'm satisfied with the contract I got, when I had a couple losses on my record.
How many fights do you have left on your current deal?
I don't even know. I'm so focused on my training I don't even focus on that stuff. I don't know if I have two left or if I have three left.
Years ago you turned down the opportunity to be on The Ultimate Fighter because you didn't like the terms of that contract, right?
Right. When that first came out, I didn't like the terms, of how those contracts were written.
Were you nervous about that, wondering if you were making the right decision?
I was a nervous wreck. It could have been real bad. But it turned out OK.
When you look back at where the sport was a few years ago, when you were consider The Ultimate Fighter, and you were the WEC heavyweight champion, are you amazed by how much it's grown since then?
Leaps and bounds. I don't even have the words for how much it has grown.
How big do you think the sport can get?
I think it can overtake all other sports all over the world. I don't think it'll stop. It'll be bigger than football.
How much longer do you think you'll be fighting?
Five or six more years.
That'll put you in your mid-30s. What do you think you'll do after that?
I own a gym right now, Alliance Training Center, and I'll be running my gym and training fighters. I'll never give up the fight game.