The Filipino-American superstar had always dreamed of winning his sport’s top prize, and he fulfilled his lifelong ambition when he knocked out Paul Cheng in front of his fans in Manila, Philippines.
On 13 October at ONE: CENTURY PART II in Tokyo, Japan he is aiming to do it all again when he takes on on Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang for the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
“The Truth” will never forget the euphoria he felt when he won his first belt, and that is one of driving forces that is pushing him through his training camp ahead of his chance to make history as a two-division World Champion.
“You know, I was so ecstatic to be performing in front of the Philippines that I almost forgot about the belt until it was given to me,” he admits.
“Once the realization came over me, there was pride, joy, happiness. I was elated. I felt everything all at the same time. It was something hard to describe, just unbelievable.
“Now, to add it back on, I won the World Title and became a World Champion in front of the Philippines, and that quadrupled everything again!”
Vera was 13 years into his career, but the top prize had always eluded him. In his second bout in The Home Of Martial Arts, he grabbed his opportunity with both hands and scored a memorable KO after just 26 seconds.
However, winning the coveted ONE strap was more than just a personal achievement. He was determined to raise the profile of the sport in his ancestral home, so this was for his people, too.
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“The whole goal is to lead by example,” he asserts.
“It’s easy to tell people what to do, but when you’ve actually done it — you’ve been through the fire, you understand the pain, that lonely walk — I don’t have to tell anybody. They’ve seen that I’ve done it. That’s my championship mindset.”
“The Truth” was already known around the world before his World Title victory, but as soon as the gold was wrapped around his waist, he was in the spotlight more than ever, and under more scrutiny.
A whole new generation of martial artists would be inspired by his career, and he took that responsibility seriously. Vera wanted to show that he lived the life of a true martial artist that people could look up to.
“I definitely noticed more people looking, watching, paying attention, and talking to me and about me after I became a World Champion,” he reveals.
“I had never worried about [being a role model] until that point, then I started to pay attention to how I carried myself because you become a figure who people look to for advice or answers.
“That doesn’t mean I started going around being fake or changing who I am — maybe I just don’t cuss as much as I used to, or I make sure to be more polite than I normally would be in a certain situation – but I’ve always known that you have to lead by example. I don’t think I was too far off the path, anyway.”
Knowing that he is a big influence in the Philippines and further afield means he has had to stay humble and focused, but anyone who met “The Truth” before his success on the global stage will tell you that is how he has always been.
Two successful ONE Heavyweight World Title defenses later with a main event at the biggest martial arts event of all time on the horizon, he has still never let his standards slip.
“The Truth” adheres to the same unrelenting work ethic that took him to the top of the mountain, and that he says will help him to triumph against Aung La N Sang when he challenges for his second World Title in Tokyo.
“The only thing that’s really changed since I became a World Champion is we got a lot busier!” jokes the Manila resident.
“We got a lot busier with training, with endorsements, phone calls, and media, but other than that, life is still the same.
“My wife keeps me grounded, she makes sure I keep the same routine and implement the things that got us here in the first place, keeping things as normal as we can.”
Tokyo | 13 October | ONE: CENTURY | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: https://onechampionship.zaiko.io/e/onecentury
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.