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Brandon Vera (left) and Amir Aliakbari will meet at ONE Championship 164 on December 3 in Manila. Photos: ONE Championship.

ONE Championship: Brandon Vera books Manila homecoming fight against Amir Aliakbari

  • Former ONE heavyweight champ has not fought since he surrendered the title to Arjan Bhullar in May 2021
  • Retirement seems to be near for 45-year-old Filipino-American, but he will first take on Iran’s Aliakbari at ONE 164 on December 3

Brandon Vera is not ready to call it a career just yet.

The former ONE Championship heavyweight king will return to action against Amir Aliakbari at ONE 164 on December 3 in Manila, the promotion has revealed.

It will be the Filipino-American’s first fight in almost two years.


45-year-old Vera (16-9) was last in action in May 2021, when he suffered a second-round TKO loss to Indian-Canadian Arjan Bhullar, surrendering the ONE heavyweight MMA title in the process.

He had held the belt since 2015, when he won it with a 26-second head-kick knockout of Paul Cheng, and defended it with first-round knockouts of Hideki Sekine and Mauro Cerilli before finally relinquishing it to Bhullar.

Vera has been competing professionally since 2002, and has battled Randy Couture, Jon Jones, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the UFC, before making the switch to ONE – where he headlined the promotion’s 100th event, opposite Aung La N Sang in Tokyo.

Filipino-American heavyweight Brandon Vera (left) lands a left hook on Mauro Cerilli of Italy. Photo: ONE Championship.

With such a long career behind him, there was some speculation as to whether Vera would ever fight again after losing to Bhullar, however, it seems that the allure of fighting in front of his dedicated Filipino fans was too exciting a prospect to resist.

A win over Aliakbari would be a storybook ending for Vera, but it would also push him right back into title contention, should he decide to continue competing.

One way or the other, he will have his work cut out for him on the night.

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Aliakbari (11-3) is not only over a decade his junior, at 34, but a decorated Greco-Roman wrestling champion with a solid MMA resume. While the Iranian’s time in ONE got off to a rocky start with back-to-back knockout losses to Anatoly Malykhin and Kang Ji-won, he recently rebounded with a TKO win over Cerilli.

Vera will not be the only Filipino star on the ONE 164 line-up.

The card will feature some of the country’s top MMA talent, and has been billed as “Philippines versus the world” by ONE chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

Amir Aliakbari delivers ground and pound to Mauro Cerilli.

Headlining honours for the card will go to a strawweight title fight between Filipino champion Joshua Pacio and outspoken American challenger Jarred Brooks.

Former flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio will also return, taking on China’s Hu Yong, while bantamweight Jeremy Pacatiw and strawweight Jenelyn Olsim will also represent the Philippines against Myanmar’s Tial Thang and China’s Meng Bo respectively.

The card will also see Superlek Kiatmoo9 and Panpayak Jitmuangnon, both from Thailand, clash in the final of ONE’s flyweight Muay Thai grand prix. The pair were originally expected to meet last month, but the fight was postponed.


The event will begin at 6.30pm local time.

ONE will broadcast its fifth event on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service earlier the same day to accommodate North American viewers.