Most mixed martial artists claim they don't care what fans and media are saying about them online.
Brandon Vera isn't quite like most fighters.
The veteran light heavyweight knows that many consider him not worthy of the UFC on Fox 4 main event against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. But instead of shutting out his detractors, the San Diego resident found his motivation through online trash talk.
On Monday's edition of "The MMA Hour," a fired-up Vera told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani that a nasty message left on his Facebook page fueled the fire for his Aug. 4 bout with Rua at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"I read one comment that stuck out a lot," Vera said. "It burnt me. It was a good one. I don't remember the guy's name, I banned him from my Facebook. But he was a godsend, because since the day I read that it's been eating at me every day. It's a good motivator. The comment was I'm not a contender, I'm a pretender. It was good.
"I was like, ‘God, this [expletive] guy.' And I thought about it. I started asking myself questions. Have you been doing everything you're supposed to be doing? How much of the statement is true? The truth hurts. Sometimes you gotta look in the mirror and face your demons, man."
It seems like eons ago, but there was a time when Vera was spoken of in similar terms to those now used for Jon Jones. After the-then heavyweight blitzed former champion Frank Mir in just over a minute at UFC 65 to run his record to 8-0, Vera openly spoke of wanting to become the first person to hold the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight titles simultaneously.
But Vera lost his initial momentum and never quite regained it due to a series of problems ranging from contract and management issues to injuries. He's 4-5 with one no-contest since smoking Mir nearly six years ago.
So Vera understands what he's up against, and he plans on making the most out of his unexpected opportunity.
"This is a golden ticket," said Vera. "I need this, this could almost become the defining moment of my career, through all the good, the bad and the ugly. If I do this the way I'm supposed to, the way I can, the world will start following. I'm not ready to let my story come to an end. I'm not ready to retire, I'm not ready to hang up the gloves."
Vera readily admits that the fighter you've seen in the Octagon in recent years isn't the one you saw in the early days of his career. But he says he's fired up in a way he hasn't been since he was given the chance to fight Randy Couture in the main event of UFC 105.
"I believe after Randy fight, I just stopped caring," said Vera, who lost a tightly-contest bout to Couture via unanimous decision. "I still went through the motions, I still trained hard because I'm not a punk. ... If you lose that fire in your ass and you stop caring there's a huge difference. If you're missing that peace, you're missing that peace until you get it back.
"I can't sleep, I can't eat, I'm always thinking about fighting. I haven't been like this since I first started, when I didn't know anything. The feeling is back. The only time I felt like this was when it was announced I was fighting Randy."
Vera would be a fool to overlook Rua, a former UFC light heavyweight champion and a legend of the sport. Training at Chula Vista, Calif.'s Alliance MMA, which also features the likes of Dominick Cruz and Phil Davis, Vera says he's not afraid to go toe-to-toe with one of the world's most fearsome strikers.
"I've been wanting to fight 'Shogun' since he's been kicking people in the face in PRIDE," he said. "His standup is amazing. He's from Chute Boxe, he's from the old school. If 'Shogun' wants to stand there and bang with me, I'll love him even more.
"On the feet, we're going to find out if my standup is better than 'Shogun's'. ... 'Shogun's' got great standup. His transitions aren't as clean as his standups, his ground isn't a clean as his standups on top or bottom. His ground and pound is awesome, but if you had to pick a weaker part of his game, it would be everything but his standup."
Vera had one more message Monday for his online detractors.
"Go ahead, bet your house on the other guy," he said. "You don't have to believe me. Just watch on August 4. After my performance against Eliot Marshall they're supposed to be counting me out. I'm supposed to show up and get my ass whupped. That's what's supposed to happen. But it's not going down like that on August 4. Everyone is expecting me not to beat him. I don't mind being the underdog, that's when I'm at my best. "