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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Saturday's UFC on Fox 4 event already had a lot on the line for the four light heavyweight competitors heading up the top two fights, but the UFC upped the ante this week by dangling a title shot in front of them all for the best performance of the night. For main event competitor Brandon Vera, it's just another added bonus to what was already a huge fight for him regardless of the stakes.
"I'm just worried about Shogun," Vera said after Wednesday's open workouts (via MMAJunkie.com. "I'm not worried about the after. Everything else is a bonus. It's a nice bonus, but we'll get there when we get there."
"In my mind, I need to beat Shogun, anyway. I don't want to win – I want to beat Shogun. I need to be able to beat him for me. As long as I do that, as long as I stick to what I want to be doing, everything else will fit right in."
Vera's the least likely of the four fighters to be given a title shot after the event, and indeed he was close to being out of the organization last year after a loss to Thiago Silva. That bout was later overturned due to Silva's positive drug test, but Vera nearly fell again in his second chance when he was nearly caught in an armbar by Eliot Marshall. Vera says it was during that fight that he made a mental turn around, and he's finally ready to take advantage of an opportunity like this on Saturday night.
"The realization came when Eliot had my arm locked out," Vera said. "There might have been one second where (I asked myself), 'What are you gonna do now? It's your fault you're here, (expletive). Are we finished fighting? Are we done? Are we gonna be out of the UFC? Is this what we're gonna do with the rest of our lives? No, man. (Expletive) that. We've got other things to do still.' And here we are today. Life is a blessing."
"I believed my own hype. I believed I was invincible. I wasn't growing," Vera continued. "Before, I was just some kid talking (expletive), doing whatever I wanted to do because I could get away with it. Now I've put in the time and training – I've put the hours in the gym. … I do everything I should've been doing. At 34, I finally grew up."
"[This opportunity is] surreal, man. Surreal. Not many people get a shot like this. I'm excited, glad, happy, nervous, scared and hungry – all at the same time."
Penick's Analysis: Though a win over Shogun probably wouldn't put him into the next title fight, it will certainly be the biggest win he's had in years, and should give him another major fight his next time out. To make that type of a turnaround would be incredible considering where he was at this time last year, and he wants to take full advantage of that. To date that hasn't been something he's been able to do, and indeed he's faltered when he's had the most on the line. If he can turn that part around on Saturday night, it will go a long way towards bringing him back from the absolute brink in the sport. It all starts this weekend, and it's up to him to pull it off.
[Brandon Vera art by Cory Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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