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They would get even better when Marlon Sr. bought them their first home.

“I’m 27,” said Vera. “I bought my house in California, a beautiful place with a nice yard big enough for all my kids and my wife, and I can only imagine what my dad is feeling. What I felt, the day my dad bought a house, I never let my dad know, but I started crying. This was beautiful. My dad is the baddest mother**ker in the world. We have a home; he bought a house for us.”

Vera pauses, the lessons of life bleeding into his career as a prizefighter, where he has a different edge than most. As affable as he is outside the Octagon, when the gate closes on fight night, it’s a battle for more than a paycheck.

“People don’t appreciate life,” he said. “When you grow up not having things and your dad’s finding it for you, you grow up different. You’re a different kind of animal. Just like Jorge Masvidal’s nickname, you’re born ‘Gamebred’ because how your dad raised you and how he became who he is. I feel like other fighters don’t have what I have inside. It’s hard to explain that, but you just know you have it. You have that, ‘I’m willing to die’ attitude and you mean it and you’re for real about it.”

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Knowing that heart is beating in his chest means he doesn’t have to trash talk his opponents. If they throw the first jab, he is more than willing to counter, but he understands that for all the talk, they will still fight, and the talk will have to be answered for. So, O’Malley isn’t the enemy; he’s next. And to get to win, Vera’s focus has to be on the man in the mirror.

“I see many things,” Vera said of O’Malley. “I’m sure he sees many things too. But look, you never finish everybody. There’s always somebody that will figure it out. It might be me, it might not be me. I keep it very real. But the only thing I know I can control is the daily grind, my habits, my discipline, my diet, my recovery, my rest. Good habits create success. I know the guy’s good, but I can’t focus on that. If you focus on that, then you buy the hype and you’re eating all his hype. I focus on myself. I make sure I’m ready. I know he’s good, I know he’s dangerous, I know he can finish me, but guess what, everything I said about him, It’s also about me.”


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