Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 | 1 a.m.
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LOS ANGELES — Behind an exterior of blood, tears and bruises, a universal emotion stretched across Brandon Vera’s face.
Vera turned angry upon sitting down at the UFC on FOX 4 post-fight press conference and ditched his manners. He interrupted a question intended for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who defeated him by TKO at 4:09 in the fourth round in Saturday’s main event at Staples Center, about gassing out.
“Everyone wants to talk about Shogun being tired,” Vera cried out. “I was pushing the pace, man. You think he’s just tired because he’s out of shape and he’s showing up not to fight? Come on, man. Get off that, man.”
Vera’s only wish after the loss to Rua was that he could regain a level of respect. He felt he deserved that much after enduring a month’s worth of criticism that he wasn’t a viable opponent for Rua.
Despite the loss, Vera hurt Rua multiple times during the fight and put him in several precarious positions. Vera took offense to negative feedback on Rua’s win and said he proved he was on the former champion’s level.
Although UFC President Dana White had no Vera-like outbursts, he agreed with the sentiment.
“You can’t put a number or a ranking or rating on someone’s heart or determination,” White said. “Brandon Vera told me at the last press conference that he was going to stick it on Saturday night, and he did. He came out and fought like he wanted to win that fight.”
Desire sounds like something that should come as a given for every fighter, but Vera is a complicated case. He admittedly turned complacent after beating Frank Mir to start his career 8-0 in 2006.
Since then, Vera has lost more than he’s won and lacked the focus needed to make it as a professional fighter.
“I started taking my job here in the UFC for granted,” Vera said. “I kind of fell off the beaten path. I stopped training like I was fighting against the best guys in the world. I figured that just me being Brandon Vera, aka the Truth, people would be nervous and they would back off. It’s not like that here, man. This is a place of champions.”
Vera claimed it took the pairing with Rua for him to come to the realization that no one was intimidated by his presence. He set out to announce he was back through his performance, to live up to the hope long ago that he could become a two-division champion.
Although Vera wasn’t the one who got his hand raised, he’s not convinced he failed.
“Usually I just worry about records, whether I won, whether I lost, whether I get to sign for the second check or not,” Vera said. “It’s kind of a big deal, but I can’t hang my head on this one. I cannot. I proved to myself and my fans out there that I’m not going anywhere.”
Although he appeared to have several bumps and bruises that needed to heal, Vera hoped for a quick turnaround after UFC on Fox 4. Vera guaranteed he would fight his way to a light heavyweight title shot “one way or the other” in the future.
For anyone who rolled their eyes at that proclamation, or anything else he said, Vera raised one of his hands with a message.
“For all the haters,” Vera said, “you know what finger is yours.”