By VINCE RUGARI
Mixed martial arts
BRANDON Vera has a very simple message for anyone in Griffith aspiring to scale the heights of mixed martial arts.
Never, ever give up.
The 36-year-old UFC-contracted fighter lives by those words, even when it seems the universe is conspiring against him.
In late August, Vera -� nicknamed "The Truth" -� made a long-awaited return to the heavyweight division against Ben Rothwell at UFC 164, and was soundly beaten.
But it soon emerged Rothwell tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and was promptly banned for nine months.
It wasn't the American-Filipino's first tangle with an opponent who later proved to be a drug cheat.
In January 2011 he lost on a unanimous decision to Thiago Silva, but the result was overturned because Silva was sprung for a falsified urine test.
Vera, however, simply refuses to let "the bad stuff" get to him.
"All I can do is smile, shake my head and move forward," he told The Area News.
"It's funny, it's f---ed up and it's an honour at the same time that someone's juicing out of their mind to fight me. Now I'm waiting for a third person to do it.
"But my dad would always say, 'this is how the life of a Filipino is. You've got to take it and roll with it.'
"It kind of brings everything together, especially when you see what happened in the Philippines recently with the huge superstorm that came through.
"They cleaned up the streets and made an area they could play basketball while everything else was going on. Don't feel sorry or bad for yourself, just pick up and move on. That's how I've been."
Vera was in Griffith on Wednesday night, spreading that message at an open training seminar at RMA & Total Fitness.
It was Vera's second visit to the city this year, after the roaring success of his first appearance back in April, and once again he was swamped by dozens of adoring fans of all ages.
"I love this place, man. Griffith is probably one of my favourite places I've done this," he said.
"I'm from Virginia, it's more of a country area on the east coast - a lot of farms back in the day."There's a busy little town centre and everything else is spread out.
"Everyone either knows each other's name or knows of the person. You can't do anything wrong and not get in trouble, which is nice to me. It really does feel like home.
"It was excellent, actually, which is why when they said I could come back, I said, 'hell yeah, let's do it, I'm in'."
Vera, who is currently recovering from a hand injury, has designs on returning to the Octagon in early 2014.
"The UFC called to see if I could fight in January but I haven't even started rehab yet - I start when I get home," he said.
"I just got the pins out maybe three weeks ago. I'm not ready to fight yet, but for sure, I'll be back.
"I'd like to fight within the first six months of the year, I'd like to get back in there ASAP."