By Bryan Levick

Brandon Vera has certainly had his share of trials and tribulations throughout his 10 year mixed martial arts career. After starting off at 8-0 the then heavyweight made claims of capturing both the UFC Heavyweight & Light Heavyweight Championships at the same time. It was a very bold proclamation, but there was no one doubting that Vera was extremely talented and destined for great things. Then it all came crashing down.

After thrashing former UFC champion Frank Mir at UFC 65 in November of 2006 Vera would not see the inside of the Octagon for 11 months because of a contract dispute. He would return and lose a lackluster decision to the much bigger Tim Sylvia. That loss was followed by a first round TKO loss to Fabricio Werdum. It was decided after that fight that Vera would make the move to 205 lbs. which many considered to be his ideal weight.

Fast-forward four years and just 8 fights later Vera is primed for the biggest fight of his life against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua this Saturday night in the main event of the UFC on Fox. Despite a record of 4-3-1 as a light heavyweight Vera could see himself lined up opposite the winner of the Jon Jones-Dan Henderson fight for a crack at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship should he defeat Rua in impressive fashion.

Title shots are nice and Vera is certainly excited, but he is also happy to be back competing and relishes the role of the underdog. His mental and physical approach is the best it has been in years and the opportunity that is in front of him is enough to rattle the toughest of individuals.

“First and foremost it feels good to be training again,” Vera admitted in an interview with MMAConvert. “I have really prepared myself for this fight and for the opportunity. Of course I feel a bit nervous. Everyone knows Shogun is one of the best fighters in the division and everyone knows I am coming off of surgery, but this is my job and I am willing to fight anyone in the division. I will put forth my best effort necessary to become a new challenger of whoever the champion is.”

“I am full of pride and excited to be here again, fighting with a great former champion. I have nothing at all against him as I said before this is our job and we are not personal enemies. We are both here to fight, to win and put on a show. I can’t predict where a win will necessarily take me, but I can promise that I will go out there and do my best.”

At 34-years-old Vera is on what some would say the tail end of his career, but because of the long layoffs and time spent away from the cage his body hasn’t been put through the same rigors that others have been put through. He’s at peace with himself and happy training with a great group of fighters who have helped him along the way.

“I am not sure of just how much longer my body will allow me to fight,” said Vera. “I’d like to think that I could continue fighting for another five to eight more years. I rely heavily on the support of my team at Alliance MMA and my number one advisor is Ricco Rodriguez the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. I also spend time with Lloyd Irvin who has been with me for a huge part of my career. I really rely on my teammates for a lot.”

The last time fans saw Vera was at UFC 137 where he took home a unanimous decision victory over Eliot Marshall. Although he won the fight he lost the war as he had his arm broken. Before that he faced Thiago Silva and originally lost via decision, but the bout was determined a no-contest because of Silva’s failed post-fight drug test. Vera was linked to a rematch with Silva, but it didn’t pan out. While he was out he was able to watch some of his favorite fighters compete.

“I have nothing bad to say about Thiago Silva,” Vera said while laughing. “I can say he does have some great tactics! I really enjoy watching my buddies fight. Some of the guys I enjoy the most are Matt Mitrione, Ricco Rodriguez, Vitor Belfort, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Roger Huerta, Rashad Evans and K-1 champion Badr Hari. I also like watching Shogun fight, he is always entertaining.”

As Saturday night approaches Vera knows he has a lot to be grateful for and he isn’t shy about thanking everyone who has stood by his side whether he was up or whether he was down.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without my fans, sponsors and friends,” Vera said. “I have to thank all of my training partners and Ricco Rodriguez. Some of the other fighters who have helped me along the way are Randy Couture, Ray Sefo and Badr Hari. I want to thank Dana White, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta for the awesome opportunity I have in front of me. I want to also thank Joe Rogan and you for taking the time to interview me. Now it’s on to the next interview! God Bless all of you.”