When Brandon “The Truth” Vera arrived in ONE Championship all the way back in 2014, it was a marquee moment for a promotion in its infancy. It sparked a new age for not only the organization but also the heavyweight division in its own right.
Vera’s name value held high stock in the MMA world, and presented opportunities for the flourishing promotion to venture into new markets, including the fighter’s native homeland in the Philippines.
That homeland bore witness to Vera’s promotional debut at ONE: Warrior’s Way in December 2014. He kicked off his run with a blistering first-round knockout of Igor Subora, which sent the Manila crowd into a frenzy.
The organization’s premier heavyweight had delivered and, just one year later, “The Truth” would return to the Philippine capital for his biggest opportunity yet – a clash with Paul Cheng for the inaugural ONE heavyweight world title.
In just 26 seconds, Vera starched his foe with a head kick to earn the knockout victory and the honor of being the first-ever ONE heavyweight world champion.
The spirit Vera encapsulated in the Circle for the Filipino people was a sight to behold. Under those bright lights at the Mall of Asia Arena, with his ancestors’ roots deeply embodied in both his approach to fighting and entwined in the prestigious body art he wore, “The Truth” bared his soul for all to see.
Vera set the standard for an elite heavyweight in ONE Championship. It was his time. It was his era.
The Filipino-American looked invincible in his first two world title defenses, having dispatched the previously unbeaten Hideki Sekine and former Cage Warriors heavyweight champion Mauro Cerilli, whom he knocked out in just 64 seconds.
Simply put, Vera’s reign at the top had never looked stronger. In fact, “The Truth” had cemented himself as a ONE Championship all-time great, especially in Asian MMA.
But every peak has its valley.
The Filipino-American looked to obtain champ-champ status, an accolade he had long dreamed of attaining. He had been given that chance when he moved down in weight to challenge two-division ONE world champion Aung La N Sang for the promotion’s light heavyweight strap in October 2019, but it was not meant to be.
Then in May 2021, Arjan Bhullar would emerge and take Vera’s heavyweight crown, ending his near-2,000-day reign at the top of the division.
But “The Truth” wouldn’t call it a career just yet. He wanted just one more chance to get some redemption. He would make a final bid amongst the new breed of heavyweights to chase his former glory in his first bout in 19 months.
At 45 years old, the odds are never in your favor. But the sport often provides magical opportunities, scenarios, and inspirational moments that beg the question, “What if?”
Vera posed that question to father time and the MMA gods in a match that had been two years in the making. At ONE 164 this past weekend, he faced off with Amir Aliakbari – a man who had been calling out the Filipino-American since he signed with ONE Championship in August 2020.
Longtime fans and fighters alike watched the contest with a glimmer of hope, believing heart over head for the heavyweight slugger to beat father time. Ultimately, just like sporting champions before him, Vera went out on his back.
Once “The Truth” removed his gloves in the Circle, his fate was clear. Knowing when “enough is enough” is half the battle in combat sports. In a cruel, unforgiving sport, Vera leaves on his terms and rides into the sunset for new pastures.
The former heavyweight king’s impact in ONE Championship should never be underestimated. His athletic prowess and name value alone elevated the promotion to new heights. And though he’ll now be making films in the Philippines and perhaps even run for Senate in his homeland, Vera’s impact will be forever felt in ONE Championship.