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Brandon Vera will return to Philippines this April -- even if he’s not fighting

Former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight Brandon Vera might not be on the card for ONE Championship’s next event at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, but the Fil-Am fighter says that whatever happens, he is going to be cageside on April 24, 2015.

"I have never felt so loved or welcomed anywhere in the world like I do/am in the Philippines and even if I am not fighting I want to come to Manila in April, support ONE Championship, teach, and just enjoy the Philippines."

ONE Championship: "Valor of Champions" is headlined by a welterweight title bout between undefeated champion Ben Askren and challenger Luis Santos and is likely to feature a strong contingent of Filipino fighters like Kevin Belingon, Eric Kelly, and Eduard Folayang.

Vera got his first taste of fighting at this venue last December and says it was one of the highlights of his MMA career.

"It was an incredible feeling walking out to the fans in Manila and hearing the cheers, feeling the good vibes, the tingling sensation on my skin from the excitement in the air. I have absolutely never felt anything like that before."

Having spent the majority of his career competing for UFC, the 37-year-old striker got his first taste of the ONE Championship rule set last December and was able to finish Igor Subora using a combination of punches and soccerkicks.

"I love the Global Rules. It changes the whole dynamic of the fight. With that comes new techniques, strategies, and styles," he said.

Another possible factor behind Vera’s first stoppage win since 2009 was the Filipino-American’s decision to return to the heavyweight division after spending the majority of his career competing at 205 pounds.

"I am so very happy to be back at heavyweight, the power is there and I’m here to stay!"

Vera, who tipped the scales at 243 pounds ahead of his last fight, is loving life as a heavyweight but he is also enjoying the opportunity to reconnect with his Filipino roots and says he plans to spend a lot of time in the country ahead of ONE Championship’s April 24 event.

"I hope to head out to all of the Filipino fighter camps and train with them while I'm out there in April. They all fight hard and I think each one of them has the potential to become a superstar."

For Vera, the goal is ultimately to challenge for the inaugural ONE Championship heavyweight title and he is on the right track to do so but isn't in any particular hurry. For the time being, he's simply content to finally be fighting in the Philippines and says he couldn't be happier with the direction his career is heading.

"The response I get from fans in the Philippines means so much to me because it shows that everything I've done in my life, right or wrong, has put me on the correct path. I hope to be challenging for the title soon and hopefully I only need one more win."

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