Brandon “The Truth” Vera on the Next Steps for Philippine MMA
Despite Eduard “Landslide” Folayang’s stunning victory over Japanese grappling stalwart Shinya Aoki last November, current ONE heavyweight champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera believes there’s still a lot of room for improvement for Filipino MMA athletes to become truly world-class.
In MMA Philippines’ exclusive interview with the Filipino-American MMA star, Vera pointed to a lack in the ground game of the majority of home-grown MMA fighters as well as a weak culture for cross-training in the country as primary culprits in the erratic showing of local MMA fighters in the world stage.
“Super congrats to ‘The Landslide’!” Vera opened with regards to his first point. “But overall, we do lack wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and groundwork. We lack cage work.” Interestingly, the Philippines equally boasts of world and regional medalists in BJJ and wrestling. But our home-grown MMA fighters are either foregoing the opportunity to regularly train with the top grappling athletes, or the successful transition of these grappling techniques have yet to be fully seen – on a consistent basis – inside the cage.
Vera likewise observed a disturbing relationship between Filipino fighters and their gyms: fierce positioning among gyms tend to prevent fighters from cross-training. “In the Philippines, nahihirapan ang mga tao mula sa iba’t ibang gym na mag-train na magkasabay,” Vera told MMA Philippines. “If you’re from one gym, you can’t train with people from another gym. Why? I honestly don’t know. I asked [other fighters] as well. They don’t understand it as well.”
For a veteran exposed to the open training culture in the US, Vera believes that cross-training with other fighters competing at the highest level is practical and important in elevating mixed martial arts in the country. “It doesn’t make any sense that you wouldn’t train with local fighters. You may be fighting each other later on, but you need help now. Unless you’re one of the greats, nobody has secrets they can’t share with the rest.”
To be fair, fighters like Eric “The Natural” Kelly and “Dy Incredible” Rolando Gabriel Dy have recently been posting about their visits to different gyms. Local fighters in general are very open to the idea of cross-training if only training fees and other nuances are not a problem.
As the founder and owner of one of the most successful MMA gyms in the US, Vera assures us that he will be bringing Alliance MMA into the country. “Alliance is coming, slowly but surely. I just don’t want to jump in bed with anyone too early, but I’m looking forward to bringing coaches from around the world to help martial arts in the Philippines to move forward. We’re going to create a lot of champions from the Philippines.” Vera also believes that another UFC veteran – Filipino fan favorite Mark Munoz – will make a big impact on Philippine MMA in the coming years. “Mark Munoz is going to be heavily involved in the MMA community with his projects here. He will be helping us as well. We are behind, but we’re not too far behind that we can’t catch up.”
At the same time, Vera does not fail to support initiatives geared towards advancing Philippine MMA. He recently became a partner of FightCon Philippines, which will be holding its second event on May 13 at a bigger venue in Metrotent, Pasig. According to Vera: “FightCon – and this is the reason why I became part of this – our goal is to unify the whole country under one ideology that it’s okay to train with other people, okay to learn from other fighters, okay to talk to other coaches, okay to train in other gyms, it’s okay to watch videos from another team, it’s okay to cross-train and learn to get along with other people. That’s the basis for Fight Con when it was explained to me, and I loved it that we get to bring people together from so many different gyms, different activities, different genres. It’s like a giant expo for the health and fitness lifestyle. And I think if we do this more often, that it’s okay and we can laugh about how people used to be so close-minded, then we can start turning the wheels to get us to move forward into making MMA world champions.”
Paul Gaw, one-half of FightCon’s founding partners, says of Vera’s involvement. “With Brandon Vera coming in as a partner, we can truly achieve our dream of uplifting the Filipino people’s interest in MMA. As part of our management team, he will be an active member in tapping the Philippine MMA grassroots, as well as help Filipino fighters be ready for the international scene, which is what FightCon aims to do in the near future.”
As for last year’s publicized feud between rock icons Ocho Toleran and Nathan Azarcon, Paul Gaw buries the hatchet, clarifying, “No, that fight will not happen. At least, not in FightCon.”
FightCon goes down this May 13 at Metrotent, Pasig.
John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.
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