Brandon Vera is a happy, content man right now. The 42-year-old veteran is sitting on top of the world as ONE Championship’s heavyweight champion, he is expecting the imminent arrival of his first son, and he is looking forward to getting back to action once ONE Championship resumes their event schedule later this year.

But being a champion in ONE Championship is about more than simply being better than your peers, as Vera (16-8) explained. As well as being their best inside the cage – known in ONE as the “circle” – fighters are encouraged to be their best away from the cage, too.

“You get to realize that what you do is bigger than the sport of martial arts, the sport of MMA, the sport of all of the martial arts coming together. It’s more than (that),” he said during an interview with MMA Junkie from his home in Guam. “It’s you as a person, it’s you as an ambassador, it’s you as a good citizen of the world, promoting goodwill and helping everywhere that you can. Always showing and striving for the values, honor, discipline and integrity.

“When you join a company that’s doing business this way, they’re doing meetings this way, they’re doing everything a certain way – by the martial arts code – it’s very easy for you as an athlete to come over and transition into this role that they want from you. They want you to become the most perfect martial artist that you can become, and they want you to become an ambassador for the world of goodwill.”

That altruistic approach could be open to cynicism from the outside, but Vera said that ONE’s approach is much more than just a marketing ploy. Instead, he said it’s a bonafide ethos that runs through the entire organization, right through to the athletes themselves.

“When somebody is doing these kinds of things and not just ‘showing’ these kinds of things – like, I would say, ‘doing it for the ‘Gram, Facebooking it, TikTok-ing it’ – it’s not for show. It’s real,” said Vera.

“They take the world champions to every single high official meeting that they have and they let us mingle with everyone. And we hear the stories of sharing and caring and events they have put together, and it doesn’t end. So, for me, working at ONE Championship doesn’t even feel like a job.”

‘No honeymoon period’

Vera has been with ONE Championship since 2014, so is ideally placed to offer insight and advice to fighters coming into the promotion for the first time. He cited a conversation he had with former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, who was initially taken aback by the way ONE went about their business following his arrival in the promotion last year.

“From all of the organizations he went to all around the entire world that he held belts in, he came in and asked me, ‘Hey Brandon. Is this really real, or is this just like the honeymoon period?’ and I said, ‘No, man. Mr. Alvarez, it’s like this every single day. There is no honeymoon period.’ And then, when he started shaking his head and you start to understand that, wow, this is not a front. Nobody’s pretending. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and help promote health throughout the world, and goodwill. I keep saying goodwill, because everyone has their own version of goodwill and helping. ONE Championship just wants you to shine in your own way and help the world as you can. And they’ll show you showing out for the world.

“It doesn’t makes sense, compared to all the other organizations,” he laughed. “It’s not normal!”

Heading Stateside

Vera said he’s convinced that the American MMA audience would fall in love with the ONE Championship product if and when the promotion broke ground in the United States.

“I think ONE Championship would honestly take America by storm,” he stated. “They were almost ready for Pride. They were almost ready for that style, the Bushido code. They were almost ready back then. Then it fell apart. Life happens, things happen.

“But what ONE Championship is offering now is what Pride had, with six turbos on it and nitrous ready to kick in. I think the US of A would love this product and absolutely adore it as soon as it hit the stands. Because the American culture is ‘doing it for the ‘Gram, doing it for Facebooking, TikTok-ing.’ If we can bring this product to the US as soon as possible to compete with all the other brands, and you can see that this is as real and as true martial arts from their home life to the middle of the ‘circle’. And no bad press, you have real heroes who never get in trouble and don’t do things wrong and try to stay by the book. I think America would eat it up, especially at this time right now.

“People are looking for a guiding light. Something that’s shining that’s not fake or a front. It’s not a sideshow. It’s really real, so I think an American crowd, especially right now, could use this in our lives. It’s something that, man, the universe is drawing us to it. It’s time.”

Vera said that one of his remaining career goals is, “to fight in Madison Square Garden in New York, if we get to go to the United States,” and suggested that, while bringing ONE Championship to the United States would win over the fans, the promotion is already winning over the athletes themselves, including many who currently compete in rival organizations.

“I can tell you that at least 70%, 80% of all athletes have been calling, emailing, texting, Facebooking, DM-ing, IG-ing, PM-ing, trying to get on the ONE Championship roster one way or another,” he said. “And I’m talking about guys from other organizations. Guys from Top 10 in different weight classes, ready to move on. So I think as soon as ONE Championship kicks the doors down and does a show in the US, the floodgates will open.”

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