Lady Vera Enters

Brandon Vera has some sound advice for his wife Kerry, who makes her mixed martial arts debut Friday against Leslie Smith at Bellator Fighting Championships in Chicago: “Hit her hard at least once.”

“Actually, I’m counting on more than once,” the UFC light heavyweight contender says soberly. “She punches harder than a lot of guys I train with.”

Though only her maiden voyage through the cage, Vera has had years of standup experience.

The 27-year-old brunette was a winner of the 2007 season of “Fight Girls,” an Oxygen channel reality series that documented 10 female muay Thai fighters through an elimination competition that culminated in Thailand.

However, striking alone wasn’t enough for the San Diego native. Vera, the second daughter of real estate agents, always wanted more, even from an early age.

After a year of pleading, Vera’s parents finally relented to put their Bruce Lee-obsessed 6-year-old daughter in Tae Kwon Do classes.

“They did have me in ballet and I absolutely hated it,” says Vera. “I was a tomboy growing up and I wanted to do karate.”

Pliés and toe shoes found their place in the Vera house with Kerry’s older sister though, who is a professional ballroom dancer today.

“She was the one who stuck with ballet,” says Vera. “She does a lot of competitions in Las Vegas.”

Maybe Vera’s parents were satisfied to have at least one daughter pursue a traditional hobby, or maybe they were broken in by the time their younger daughter moved from Tae Kwon Do to boxing because they hardly batted an eyelash, she says.

“My parents have always been supportive with everything I want to do,” says Vera. “It might not have been my mom’s favorite thing, but she was supportive and my dad was all for it.”

Vera says she won a majority of the five to 10 amateur boxing bouts she competed in from the age of 18 on.

But her hunger for more led Vera to a San Diego gym, where husband-to-be Brandon found her mauling a punching bag.

“I heard somebody beating on a speed bag and it was making this crazy rhythm,” recalls Vera. “I was like, ‘Who the hell is that beating on the bag?’ looking around. I looked up and it was Kerry. I was like, ‘Oh s—t. Who’s that chick?’ And that was it.”

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Brandon Vera will take a
backseat for Kerry's fight.
Angling for a way to get some time with her, Brandon asked Kerry to save him some gas money by showing him around San Diego on foot.

The female fighter was unsure at first of her bald but charming Filipino-American suitor.

“That was my whole thing -- confusion,” says the 31-year-old Vera. “Let’s get her confused and it will be alright.”

The diversion seemed to work. In February 2006, standing in the Octagon in front of 11,000 screaming fans minutes after he headkicked Justin Eilers to the canvas at UFC 57, Vera invited the crowd to join him for his wedding the next day in the hotel’s chapel.

The union has flourished on many levels.

“[Fighting’s] tiring and exhausting,” says Vera, “and you don’t have time to come home and do the dishes or the laundry. When he has the energy, he picks up the slack, and when I have the energy, I do. We don’t give each other a hard time for being at the gym for three to four hours, where as somebody who wasn’t in the gym scene wouldn’t know that’s how long you’re there.”

Though Vera trains often alongside his wife at the Alliance Training Center they opened together in Chula Vista, Calif., in 2008, he won’t be in her corner come Friday.

“When he coaches me, it’s hard to be yelled at by your husband,” admits the debuting Vera. “Anybody else is fine, but you don’t want to go home mad at him. You want to go home mad at somebody else. I want him to support me, not yell at me.”

Vera agrees that his coaching style will have to take a backseat on Friday, which will do nothing to tame the butterflies he’ll get when the cage door closes on her.

“I hate watching her fight,” admits Vera. “It’s my wife. She’s hot. It’s scary. It’s MMA. I fight MMA -- I know what could happen. That’s my wife and I should be protecting her at all times, and I can’t.”

The female Vera has been put through the paces for the fight, however, by trainers Eric DelFierro and Billy Scheive, as well as Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Leticia Ribeiro, of the University of Jiu-Jitsu.

“She’s an incredible athlete,” says DelFierro, who makes up one half of the promoting team responsible for Total Combat, one of Southern California’s most successful regional shows. “Whatever Kerry decides to do, she’s going to be good at it.”

DelFierro says Vera, who’s trained jiu-jitsu just in the last year, improves by the day.

“The problem with Kerry is she’s so driven, that she didn’t want an easy first fight,” says DelFierro. “She didn’t want to fight a first-timer. She wanted a girl with experience. So the girl she’s fighting has four fights already. This will give us a good gage of where she’s at.”

Vera’s husband says it’s that same determination that will set her apart from the pack.

“I think she could be the top woman fighter in MMA today,” says Vera with confidence. “It’s not what she does different; it’s what she does extra that makes a big difference and it’s not just me who sees it, it’s other fighters and other guys who train at the gym that are thoroughly impressed with her. We’ll do two or three workouts during the day and she’ll get an extra run in just because. She’ll get an extra round in. Even though it’s minuscule, it adds up.”

DelFierro agrees that Vera has a potential to make waves in both the 135- and 145-pound divisions, the latter home to female stars Gina Carano and Christiane Santos.

“She never gets tired and hits harder them some of my guys. She’s one of the best strikers in my camp,” says DelFierro. “Also, this fight is a five-minute round fight. She’s not doing the three-minute rounds that every other girl does. She’s jumping right in because she wants a level playing field.”

Like Mr. Vera himself, he believes his wife’s striking power will carry great weight Friday. Vera loves that about his wife, but there’s only one situation when Vera doesn’t consider it a turn-on.

“It makes me nervous when she asks me to do the dishes,” he says.
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