Though it’s not entirely clear when the axe came down, Fox Sports has confirmed that UFC heavyweight/light-heavyweight Brandon Vera was released from the promotion sometime after his TKO loss to Ben Rothwell last August. It was Vera’s second consecutive defeat, following a previous KO at the hands of Shogun Rua, and it dropped his overall UFC record to 8-7 with one no-contest.
Any post-mortem of Brandon Vera’s career has to focus on what a disappointment it turned out to be. (I’m not trying to be a dick, here; I bet Vera feels the same way.) This is a guy who went from hot-shot contender to hapless journeyman seemingly overnight. The Fox Sports article summarizes it well:
Vera burst upon the scene in Oct. 2005, defeating Fabiano Scherner via TKO in the first of four consecutive victories, a streak that emboldened him to infamously promise that he would hold two UFC title belts at the same time.
He never even fought for the title.
Vera was at one time slated to fight for the UFC heavyweight championship, but a contract dispute put his career on ice in the fall of 2006. By the time it was resolved, nearly a year had gone by, and Vera was never able to recapture his previous magic and reach the high bar he’d set for himself.
By late 2006, Vera had every right to carry a big ego. He had a flawless pro record of 8-0 with all wins by stoppage, and was fresh off a 69-second TKO of former champ Frank Mir, who was struggling to make a comeback at the time (and eventually succeeded). As it turned out, Mir was the last notable opponent that Vera managed to beat. And if you wanted to be brutally honest about it, you could argue that Mir is the only notable opponent that Vera has ever beaten.
Vera built his reputation by gobbling up un-spectacular sluggers like Mike Whitehead and Justin Eilers. After the Mir fight, reality struck. Maybe the year-long contract dispute stole his fire in some way — Dana White blamed Vera’s decline on Vera earning too much money, of course — but the truth is, Vera was forced to jump up in competition, and his hype was quickly exposed once he got up there.
Tim Sylvia busted him up. Fabricio Werdum smashed him within one round. Vera fled the heavyweight division and tried his luck at 205. Keith Jardine and Randy Couture edged him out in close decisions. Jon Jones destroyed his face, and UFC fans rejoiced, because don’t we all love to see a cocky bastard get his comeuppance? (This was back before Jon Jones became a cocky bastard himself.) Along the way, Vera was fed Reese Andy and Mike Patt, to prevent him from spiraling completely out of orbit, and he managed to win a decision over TUF 8 vet Krzysztof Soszynski.
In essence, Vera found semi-regular work as a can-crusher, and became a cautionary tale about buying into your own hype. But in recent years, his story picked up an uncomfortable subplot: drugs. Specifically, all of his opponents being on them.
Brandon Vera spent New Year’s Day 2011 being publicly slapped around by scary Brazilian 205-er Thiago Silva, en route to a unanimous decision loss. It was Vera’s third-straight defeat, and the UFC quickly fired him. Then, a month-and-a-half later, the UFC unfired him after it was revealed that Silva submitted a fake urine sample to hide his steroid use. Vera had been granted a stay of execution, and returned in October 2011 to win a forgettable decision against another TUF 8 castmember, Eliot Marshall.
Then, the ass-kicking against Shogun. Then, a follow-up ass-kicking from Ben Rothwell back at heavyweight, in which Rothwell decided to break the tension in round three by going completely insane:
And then, the inevitable news that Rothwell had failed his drug test. This time, elevated testosterone was the culprit — but unlike the fallout that Silva faced after botching his drug test, Rothwell was only given an “administrative warning” by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, and the fight result was officially kept as a loss for Vera. More importantly, the UFC decided not to give him another chance.
Despite Vera’s competitive shortcomings, the 8+ years that he spent in the Octagon virtually guarantees that he’ll be fielding offers from other promotions. (He already has the right attitude for Bellator.) We’ll keep you posted on where he ends up.