Brandon “The Truth” Vera is confident of defending his ONE heavyweight world title belt against Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli of Italy when they meet on Friday in the ONE: Conquest of Champions at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“I would much rather die than lose in front of the Filipinos,” said the 41-year-old Vera before journalists who attended the press conference on Tuesday at the City of Dreams Grand Ballroom.
The 6-foot-2 Vera has a 2-0 win-loss record in the ONE Championship competition. His last victory was over Hideki Sekine two years ago.
“I owe the Philippines a lot for inspiring me to work harder than I ever have before. Am I ready after spending two years away from the cage? Hell yes. I’ve prepared very hard for this bout. I’ve trained every day, in between traffic, shoots, and everything in the middle. I am confident of victory. I’m still hungry and I want it more now. Mauro [Cerilli] is a worthy opponent, he’s been knocking guys out while I was away, and I am in no way underestimating him,” said Vera, who is returning from a two-year hiatus.
Cerilli, on the other hand, has won five straight matches, four by knockout.
“Thank you to ONE Championship. I am very happy to be here. The way ONE promotes martial arts is true to my character. I know Brandon [Vera] is the local hero, and I have all the respect for him. But I will do my best to win the title. If you would have told me years ago I would be facing a legend like Brandon, I would not have believed you. I’ve worked very hard to get to this point, so I am grateful for the opportunity,” stated the 35-year-old Cerilli.
Meanwhile, Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang will try to redeem himself for the ONE lightweight belt versus Amir Khan of Singapore in the co-main bout.
“Thank you all for coming and for all the support. Last year, things didn’t go as I expected. I lost the title. But this year is a new chapter. I worked extremely hard to come back here for another opportunity at the belt. I’ve been inspired by my teammates, my coach, and all the fans. This is the biggest bout of my career, and I am excited to give the best performance of my life,” said Folayang, who has a 20-6 win-loss slate.
Folayang belongs to Team Lakay, the home of newly-crowned undisputed bantamweight champion Kevin Belingon, straw-weight king Joshua Pacio, and flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio.
Khan is aiming to become the first homegrown Singaporean world champion.
“I’m so happy to be fighting again in Manila. This is actually the second time. I fought here four years ago. I have all due respect for [Eduard] Folayang, he is a great martial artist. But I am coming for the title. I’ve worked extremely hard on my game since the beginning of my career, and I am one hundred percent confident of becoming world champion. Winning that title means everything to me. Me and my coach, we have a solid game plan for this fight. The odds may be stacked against me. I’m fighting the hometown hero, but I won’t let it affect my performance,” said Khan.
Other matches scheduled on Friday are between Team Lakay fighter Honorio Banario against Dae Sung Park of South Korea (under card) and Jeremy Miado against Peng Xue Wen of China and Rockie Bactol against Akihiro Fujisawa of Japan (preliminary cards).
Also gracing the press conference were Hua Fung Teh, chief financial officer of ONE Championship, which is the largest global sports media property in Asian history; Marita Abraham, chief marketing officer of Zilingco; and Nathan Sorensen, marketing operations director of City of Dreams.
“It is always great to be back in Manila because the Philippines is one of the countries that truly and deeply appreciate martial arts. This is the reason why ONE Championship continually upkeeps holding blockbuster shows for our passionate Filipino fans. Brandon Vera and Eduard Folayang, two of the biggest superstars in the Philippines are ready to see action against incredibly tough opponents. It’s going to be an amazing evening of action. On Friday, Manila, let us make history again. Thank you and see you at the Mall of Asia Arena,” Hua Fung Teh said. (PNA)