MANILA, Philippines – Brandon Vera is the first Filipino MMA heavyweight champion, and hopes to be the beginning of a trend.
“Part of my legacy is not to be the last Filipino heavyweight champion in the world. Part of my legacy is to create champions here in the Philippines,” the 39-year-old said days before headlining ONE Championship’s “Age of Domination” fight card in Manila, which takes place today, Friday, December 2 at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Let’s find another heavyweight who could also be a world champion. Let’s find and create more world champions.”
The 39-year-old Filipino-American, who’s had a 14-year career in mixed martial arts from the Ultimate Fighting Championship and now to ONE Championship, became the first Filipino heavyweight title-holder a year ago when he knocked out Paul Cheng in 26 seconds during ONE’s “Spirit of Champions” event.
He also became the first ONE heavyweight champion that night.
“Let’s create noise on the world stage for all Filipinos. I’m in,” he said, proud to be fighting alongside more Filipinos on the card. “I’m honored and blessed but hindi pa tayo tapos (we’re not yet done). We’re going to make more champions dito sa Pilipinas (here in the Philippines).”
Vera defends his title for the first time against Japanese fighter Hideki Sekine in the main event of “Age of Domination”.
Vera (14-7) said it was an honor to headline a card that has 9 Filipinos fighting on it, including Eugene Toquero, Filipino-Australian Reece McLaren, Filipino-American Mark Striegl, and 5 Team Lakay fighters (Geje Eustaquio, Honorio Banario, Edward Kelly, April Osenio, and Danny Kingad).
“Yung mga Pilipino grabe talaga (Filipinos are incredible), everybody’s becoming so well-rounded, so good. Everybody’s trying to step up their cardio, they’re pulling in instructors from around the world,” said Vera.
“It’s an honor to be fighting here in the Philippines again.”
Vera is expecting a tough match against Sekine, who holds an undefeated record in 7 fights and will be making his promotional debut for ONE.
“Matindi yung gagong yun. Malaki katawan, malaki ulo (That guy’s tough. He’s huge and he’s got a big head),” Vera said of his opponent. “I’m expecting a hard fight. I’m expecting shots to be traded, I’m expecting him to slip and get caught. I’m expecting him to push the pace and try to take me down.”
In a fight where he is expected to have problems handling Sekine and his expertise in jiu-jitsu, Vera declared he is ready to battle the 43-year-old on the ground if taken down.
“Just so you guys know, I’m playing possum about my jiu-jitsu like I don’t want to be taken down. I wish he would take me down. I’m going to show you things that people haven’t even seen yet,” he said. “So I’m not worried about his jiu-jitsu ground game, I’m excited for it. I’m looking forward to it.”
“You know I’m a stand-up fighter but I am very well-prepared to be on the ground with anybody,” added Vera, who shared he took training camp for this fight more seriously than before.
Both fighters will be tested should their fight go the distance as Vera has won his last two bouts in the first round while Sekine has only gone the full length once in his prizefighting career.
“I’ve always been ready to go the distance. Any fight, championship fight, you have to be ready to go 5 rounds. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Vera said. “That’s my job, that’s what we do. We just fight until they tell us to stop.” – Rappler.com
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