Lloyd Irvin talks the journey and changes in UFC on Fox 4’s Brandon Vera
Often times there are moments in athletes careers that change them for better or worse and Vera’s came this past October.
According to his longtime coach Master Lloyd Irvin, it was in Vera’s most recent trip to the Octagon that changed things for the light heavyweight. While he defeated Elliot Marshall to gain his eighth victory in the organization, he suffered a broken arm and it was then that ultimately helped transform Vera for the better.
“One-hundred percent,” said Irvin, who recently spoke with Heavy.com. “Brandon has had flashes of greatness and he’s had times that he didn’t look so great and a lot of people harp on the Eliot Marshall and say Eliot Marshall won. But there’s only one winner that comes out and we can always say ‘if that happened, if this happened.’ But it didn’t. Brandon got the victory and you learn from it. He got his arm injured and he healed from that.
"It all comes down to which Brandon Vera shows up and what’s he going to do. Right now, Brandon’s in a much different place mentally than I’ve seen him in, in a long, long time. It’s to the point right now that everyone counts him out. He wasn’t the first person called to fight 'Shogun' on the main card. He has name recognition, they needed an opponent to take the fight, they called Brandon, and he jumped on it.
“So, like he said at the press conference, he’s being brought in like a fish to get eaten by 'Shogun' and 'Shogun' probably looks at it like that, too. He probably looks at Brandon and plans to go in there, knock Brandon out, and get his rematch with Jon Jones. As I know, Brandon Vera comes in there and does what he’s capable of doing and does what he does in the gym and he pulls the trigger and doesn’t go in the cage and not pull the trigger like he’s done for so often. He goes out there and he’s a very dangerous fight for 'Shogun' because 'Shogun’s' never had a pure muay-thai war in the UFC, and Brandon’s in the top two or three percent of kicking power and Brandon’s a phenomenal wrestler. He’s been taken down a few times, but with silly stuff that he shouldn’t have been taken down with, but it happened. 'Shogun' probably watches that like everyone else, but Brandon’s good at wrestling and when he gets to the ground he knows what to do.
“It’s all about what Brandon shows up and if he pulls the trigger and right now he’s care free. He’s the underdog, he’s supposed to get squashed, he doesn’t have a chance, he’s a stepping stone so Shogun can get his rematch, and that’s a good thing. The more Shogun believes that the more it can more into Brandon’s favor. Right now, it’s like everything has come back around and Saturday it’s show time.”
With that being said, it is indeed showtime Saturday night when Vera (12-5 MMA, 8-5 UFC) steps inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Rua (20-6 MMA, 4-4 UFC) marks Vera’s thirteenth fight inside the Octagon and, for a fighter that once exploded on the scene, it’s a vastly different stage he’s on now fighting on FOx. Through the good and bad, Irvin has stood supporting Vera and helping guide him back to headliner status.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs as a friend, father figure, mentor, and there’s been lots of ups and downs,” Irvin said. “You know when he first came into the scene, he exploded on the scene, and when certain athletes have the type of meteoric rise that Brandon had certain things get to their head. There’s a lot of different transitions and it’s like a college kid coming out of college with a 100-million dollar deal, there’s certain things psychologically and mentally that a person is going to go through. There’s lots of stuff that goes on. Brandon’s had his highs and he’s had his lows. He came on the scene and exploded and you know it’s been an emotional roller coaster.
“As he’s become older and he’s matured more, it’s like he sees things in a different perspective. Even when you try to talk to talk to younger athletes, it’s hard sometimes because sometimes they just have to go through it and you have to let them experience it and you hope they don’t completely self-destruct on them. But being back here in the main event, it’s an indescribable feeling. The opportunity came up, he got the call, and he took it without hesitation.”
It’s been a long and scrutinized journey for Vera to return to the main, but nevertheless Vera continued to learn under the tutelage of Irvin and Alliance MMA’s Eric Del Fierro.
While Irvin most likely would’ve enjoyed skipping the down times, he’s enjoyed the process alongside Vera and he’s excited to see his student reach full potential against Rua on the sport’s grandest stage.
“As far as being a coach and it being enjoyable, there’s different aspects of the whole fighting world,” Irvin said. “There’s guys coming into mixed martial arts right now as pure mixed martial artists and they’re coming in to fight. And then there’s guys like Anderson (Silva) and Lyoto (Machida) who came in starting off as a kid getting involved in martial arts and Brandon came to me as a martial artist and there wasn’t the thought of fighting in mixed martial arts and the UFC right now. We were doing jiu-jitsu and doing traditional martial arts and developing there. Then we went in the direction of mixed martial arts, so being with Brandon before anyone knew who Brandon was and from the very beginning.
“The most enjoyable part for me is seeing him back in the main event in this type of capacity. Dana White called him and he took the opportunity. Like he said, he’s erasing all the negative stuff in the past. And for me, win, lose, or draw in all the fights with my students I feel that as long as they go out and do their best, don’t give, and do their job. It’s more like a family for me, I’m not in it for the business, I like training martial artist, and if a martial artist happens to desire to want to get into the UFC or mixed martial arts and if they come through the program. The most enjoyable thing is I’d have to say the experiences, the ups and downs, and the whole journey now leading back to (a) main event, Fox, Staples Center, (and) it’s huge. And it’s against someone who’ve we watched his highlights and looked up to as far as being a fighter. 'Shogun' makes it even more enjoyable.”
While "Shogun" makes Irvin excited and life more enjoyable for Vera and himself in the preparation for the biggest fight of their careers, a victory over him is the ultimate goal.
A victory which, according to organizational President Dana White, could earn him a title shot if he’s impressive enough in doing so. Regardless, Irvin is proud of Vera for remaining focused in his journey up from the depths.
“I’m super proud of Brandon, it’s just what I teach all of my guys and when you reach any level of success you’re bound to get your haters and then your supporters,” Irvin said. “All you have to do is just stay focused on what you’re doing and you have a level of success and all of sudden you have a level of failure then the haters want to stomp on you more. It’s harder to deal with it when you’re going through a dark part or failing or you’re losing than it is when you’re succeeding. So, when you’re winning he took the good with the bad and when he was losing he took the good with the bad. Of course no athlete wants to lose, but he stayed focused, he stayed focused on his dream, he stayed focused of being a UFC fighter and becoming a UFC champion. So, I’m super proud of him.”