Winner of five of his past six, including finishes over No. 1 contender Sean O’Malley and former champion Dominick Cruz, Vera (20-7-1 MMA, 14-6 UFC) has proven to be a dangerous contender at 135 pounds.
He meets Sandhagen (15-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) on Feb. 18 at a UFC Fight Night headliner at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas – a bout he sees with big implications.
“One thousand percent (it’s a big fight), and the guys that I have been beating are either former world champions or top-five guys,” Vera said on Michael Bisping’s “Believe You Me” podcast. “So probably for myself, I have a longer road, but it is what it is. It’s life. Some people have an easier road, a shorter road. I have a longer road. So at the end of the day, life is hard for everybody.
“But I really believe with a solid win on this guy, I’m fighting for the belt. Regardless of all this hype thing – who has more views, who has less views – it doesn’t f*cking matter. You go in there and put the lights out, the views come your way.”
O’Malley says he’s been guaranteed a title shot against the winner of the expected title fight between champion Aljamain Sterling and former two-division champ Henry Cejudo. Although Vera is the lone man to beat O’Malley, he thinks staying active is only giving him invaluable experience.
“If I’m healthy, why sit down?” Vera said. “There’s a bag of money to go and grab, so why not? (I) keep advancing, and I’m beating legit guys. It’s not like they’re building my career and sh*t like that. The experience I have right now, you can’t buy that. You can only get it through walking the walk, and I’m getting calmer in there, I’m getting better in there. So while all these guys act like a bunch of c*nts, I’m just going to keep getting better, and by the time I get there, it’s going to be night-night.”