UFC president Dana White recently stated that Saturday’s UFC on Fox 4 in Los Angeles would determine the next light heavyweight contender, but on Monday, he narrowed the field down to just Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and, somewhat surprisingly, Brandon Vera.
Rua and Vera are the headliners of Saturday’s event at the Staples Center.
Initially, co-main event fighters Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader were part of the equation, but that is no longer the case.
“The winner of Vera and Rua gets the shot,” White stated on Monday’s UFC on Fox 4 conference call with the media.
With Rua, Machida and Bader all entrenched amongst the Top 10 light heavyweights in the world, none would be a surprise when considering who gets the winner of Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson at UFC 151 in September, but Vera’s name came as a tremendous surprise to fans and pundits alike.
Vera is coming off of a victory over Eliot Marshall at UFC 137, but prior to that, he has one no contest that followed back-to-back defeats, albeit the losses were to Randy Couture and Jon Jones.
“Shogun Rua just came off a fight of the year and he’s probably one of the greatest fighters in the last decade,” White explained. “It’s all about opportunities. Brandon is a guy who burst onto the scene, was gonna be a 205 pound champion, a heavyweight champion, was running through guys left and right. I don’t know what happened, but it’s about opportunities. He accepted this opportunity to fight one of the greatest fighters of this decade and we’ll see what he does with it.”
Vera is aware of the opportunity before him, however, knowing that being a late replacement for Rua’s original opponent, Thiago Silva, comes with a fringe benefit he never dreamt it would… a possible title shot.
“This is already a blessing in disguise,” said Vera. “By Dana throwing that out there, this is almost like winning the lottery twice.”
He doesn’t dare look past Rua, who, as White stated, is one of the top fighters over the past decade, but should he complete the Cinderella story, Vera says he is in a much different position than two years ago, when he lost to Jones.
If he beats Rua and Jones defeats Henderson, Vera believes he now has the proper mindset to be successful against the champ.
“The very first time I fought Jon Jones, I thought he was just some young punk and I didn’t respect him at all. I got what I deserved,” recounted Vera. “If and when I do get a chance to fight Mr. Jones again, I promise he’ll have my full and undivided attention.”
Of course, all the talk about title shots and winning the lottery are for not if Vera doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity laid at his feet.
“This opportunity, it’s a dream come true and makes everything okay, and I’m taking full advantage of it. I’ve never been so confident, so sure ever in my life.”