Coach: Brandon Vera’s return to UFC heavyweight ranks followed knee injury, weight gain

Brandon Vera (right) injured his hand in his fight with “Shogun” Rua, pictured here, according to his coach. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images.

Following two injuries and subsequent weight gain, Brandon Vera decided to come back to the heavyweight division where he initially made a name for himself.

According to Eric Del Fierro, Vera’s coach at Alliance in San Diego, the fighter sustained a hand injury in his August 2012 fight with “Shogun” Rua, then injured his knee months later while training. During the recovery from his knee injury, Vera’s weight went up to near 240 pounds, said the coach.

“After the Shogun fight, [Vera] hurt his hand,” Del Fierro told GRACIEMAG.com on Thursday afternoon. “So he was out … seems like at least two months. And right when he started coming back he went to Mike Fowler’s wedding I think in Hawaii. First day there he started rolling with Mike and something happened. I think he partially tore his MCL or something along the line. He had a knee injury, so that put him out another three months. Now he’s back training, but I think he got up to … 240 (pounds), if I had to guess.”

As reported by GRACIEMAG.com on Thursday morning, Vera confirmed via Twitter that he will return to heavyweight division in an Aug. 31 fight with Ben Rothwell at UFC 164.

The Rothwell fight will be Vera’s first at heavyweight in over five years. The last time he competed in the division was a 2008 loss to Fabricio Werdum, which came after falling short in an effort to win the heavyweight title from then-champion Tim Sylvia.

When in discussions about returning to the Octagon, Del Fierro said his fighter mentioned returning to heavyweight and asked for his opinion on the matter. The coach explained that the decision was ultimately up to Vera, and added that the fighter never liked cutting to the 205-pound light heavyweight limit.

“We started to talk about when he was going to get a fight booked and he just started mentioning that he wanted to consider staying at heavyweight and what [my thoughts were],” Del Fierro said. “Brandon never liked cutting to 205. He doesn’t like dieting, he doesn’t like cutting. So I said, ‘When it’s all said and done, it’s about what makes you happy. You performed at heavyweight [and] did good … it’s your choice, ultimately … You want to do heavyweight? Try it. What the hell.’ So he decided he wanted to book a fight at heavyweight.”

Vera started his UFC career at heavyweight and tallied a 12-2 overall MMA record before deciding to drop a weight class. Since moving to light heavyweight, he has seen different results, going 4-4 with a no-contest among lighter fighters.

When asked if the move back to heavyweight is a permanent one for the 35-year-old fighter, Del Fierro explained that the decision will be made once UFC 164 comes and goes.

“I think he’s always liked fighting at heavyweight,” said the coach. “I think we’ll make a decision after this fight and see how he feels.”

UFC 164 will take place at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. No other matches for the card have been confirmed by the UFC at this time.

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