Brandon “The Truth” Vera is ecstatic.
After nearly two years since his last title defense, the Filipino-American superstar is scheduled to return to the ONE Championship cage on Friday, 23 November.
He is set to defend his belt against Italy’s Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli in the main event of ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, which takes place at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, and to say he is excited would be an understatement.
“Excited is not even the word because I’m longing for it,” the 41-year-old says.
“The only thing I can imagine it to be is the opposite of being locked up. Like, if you’re locked up, you’re excited and you cannot wait for the outside. I’m the opposite. I can’t wait for the inside. I know, it sounds crazy, right?
“That’s all the emotional stuff, that’s all the anxiousness, all the excitement, the nervousness — all of it is encompassed in that feeling, I guess. I can’t wait to get back inside.”
The last time Vera competed inside the cage was at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION in December 2016. He successfully defended his coveted title against Japan’s Hideki “Shrek” Sekine, defeating the previously unbeaten grappling behemoth via first-round TKO.
Ever since that fateful night in Manila, “The Truth” has remained busy.
The heavyweight king has been preparing for the launch of his gym Alliance Training Center Philippines, as well as promoting the critically-acclaimed action thriller BuyBust, of which he has a starring role. Also, he got remarried.
But now, he will make his long-awaited mixed martial arts return and defend his crown against one of Europe’s toughest big men.
Cerilli, who will make his promotional debut, brings a 12-2 professional record and a five-bout win streak to the world’s largest martial arts organization.
A known finisher with nine of his wins coming via stoppage, the Italian is a Cage Warriors Heavyweight Champion who is coming off the quickest victory of his career — a 15-second knockout of Northern Ireland's Karl Moore in March.
Vera's time off from active competition had some of his fans thinking he may not be as sharp as he was before, but the ONE Heavyweight World Champion guarantees that he is still in top physical shape.
"Everybody’s worried that it’s been nearly two years, but it doesn’t feel like that to me,” he explains.
"I’ve been doing action stuff, and I’ve been training on my days off. I’ve really been just working.
“It doesn’t feel like two years, and my coaches say that I’ve gotten faster, so I’m excited.”
Although a tough assignment awaits him at the Mall Of Asia Arena, “The Truth” is confident he will stop Cerilli.
“I am excited to prove that I am one of the best heavyweights in the world on 23 November,” he continues.
“I don’t do promo stuff. Just watch the fight and enjoy because I don’t win by points. It’s not my style. I will be going for the finish.”
That is the truth, no pun intended.
Since joining ONE Championship in 2014, Vera has finished all of his opponents in the first round. If the Filipino-American has his way, that trend will continue on Friday.
“Of course, I want that finish. I am always looking for that,” he says. “If there’s an opening to get the knockout or submission, I will go for that in a split second.”