With his training camp in its latter stages and his bout with Keith Jardine at UFC 89 less than two weeks away, Brandon Vera woke up around 4 a.m. with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach, Lloyd Irvin, standing over his bed.
“He said, ‘Hey Brandon’ and I thought it was a bad dream,” Vera recalled. “I thought he was going to make me work out. He said, ‘Right now I’m being robbed. I need you out of bed. You need to be quiet. Just calm down, just relax and don’t say anything.’”
In an incident first reported by BloodyElbow.com, two men had entered Irvin’s house through his basement window early that morning. Vera was staying at the house with Irvin’s wife, child and a mutual friend, Thad. The men gathered Irvin, his wife, child and Vera into a room upstairs eventually forcing Vera and Irvin’s wife to lie flat on the ground. The men were very organized.
“They were lined up in stagger formation a few feet apart and three to five feet from us so there was no way we could make contact with them, but they could make contact with us,” said Vera. “They spoke in clear and concise language. They were pros and that’s what bothered me the most about them. They knew what they were doing exactly and what they were going for.”
Once the two men had Vera, Irvin and his family in one room, one of them went across the hall to go get Thad. When he left the room Irvin made his move.
“As soon as he left, Master Lloyd starting telling him that he was going to throw up, saying, ‘I don’t feel good. I don’t understand what you’re telling me to do,’" said Vera. "The guy is pointing around with the gun trying to tell Master Lloyd what to do and Master Lloyd said every time he saw the gun wave to the side he said, ‘Got it. Got it. Got it.’ And then he said the guy waved the gun one more time and that’s when he just grabbed it, pinned him up against the wall, pushed the gun into his stomach and pushed the release on the gun for the magazine to drop out.”
Irvin then dropped to the floor to grab the gun and he gave Vera another gun he had in the house. Irvin fired a shot from his son’s upstairs bedroom window into the backyard as the two men fled the scene. The police were called to the scene soon after to put an end to an experience Vera described as “surreal.”
“I went and trained the morning after,” said Vera. “Later on I went to train for a session that evening. I was still nervous about being in a crowd. I had to sleep with a gun on me. I’m getting my license so I could carry wherever I go now. It’s changed my thinking a lot because if it could happen to me it could happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter where you’re living at, neighborhood or wherever.”
Amazingly, Vera said the experience didn’t have an effect on him during his fight. To the contrary, Vera cherishes his light heavyweight contest last Saturday in Birmingham, England, even though he ended up on the wrong end of a split decision to Jardine.
“I can honestly tell you that was my most favorite fight ever,” he said. “I enjoyed that fight immensely. The whole thing was great. We just kept hitting each other really hard. That was a growing, learning experience for me. That fight was bad ass; I enjoyed it thoroughly.”
Vera’s loss to Jardine was the third in his last four bouts, however, prompting UFC President Dana White to comment that Vera “doesn’t have that killer instinct” and that he “hasn’t been the same guy” since Vera took that year off because of contract issues. Vera just chalks the comments up to business.
“Man, I went to a split decision with a guy that knocked out the current champ and won a decision with Chuck Liddell the former champ,” said Vera, who has one bout remaining on his UFC contract. “I mean its business. Now we have to renegotiate my contract and him saying that out in public makes him a good case for not paying me any more. It’s just the employee wants more money and the boss just doesn’t want to pay more -- that’s just how it is. That’s going to be one of those arguments up there along with abortion, religion and politics. It’s always going to be like that. It’s fine.”
At least Vera’s life-altering experience hasn’t hampered his sense of humor. During those few tense moments, Vera said this thought crossed his mind.
"I remember going inside and I remember thinking, ‘How come you didn't show up earlier so I didn't have to go through this stupid training camp?’" he told Sherdog.com. "‘You should have come when I was out of shape and fat before I went through hell.’"