Brandon Vera was brought up in Norfolk, Virginia where he lived with his Filipino father and Filipino step mother. At high school he excelled in wrestling and earned a wrestling scholarship to university, but he chose to drop out and joined the Air Force instead.
After being medically discharged due to an arm injury, Vera began to study the art of submission grappling, at first on his own and then as part of a team. He soon transitioned to MMA and made his pro debut in 2002, winning by first round TKO.
In 2005, he stopped two fighters in a single night to become the WEC Heavyweight Grand Prix winner. He signed with the UFC a few months later and won his first four fights for the promotion, culminating in a win over former heavyweight champion Frank Mir.
In total Vera fought 16 times for the UFC, facing the likes of Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, Jon Jones, and Mauricio Rua. In 2014, he signed with ONE Championship and stopped URCC champion Igor Subora in his promotional debut. This earned him a shot at the inaugural ONE Heavyweight World Championship, which he seized by scoring a TKO victory of Paul Cheng in just 30 seconds.