Hyoung Chang, Denver Post
Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 | 12:51 p.m.
Every time Brandon Vera washes his face in the shower, he presses his hand against the area near his right eye that was wrecked by Jon Jones on March 21.
The day still hasn't come where it doesn't hurt him to do so. When it does, Vera says he will be back.
"I'm still babying it, but it's getting better," Vera said. "At one point, I couldn't even touch it. December or January is when I'm looking to come back. I test my face every day to see what I can get away with."
The injuries Vera (11-5) sustained during that light heavyweight fight against Jones in Broomfield, Colo., were severe, to say the least.
During the first round, Jones threw an elbow that fractured Vera's face in three places. It also severed a nerve and lodged a chip of bone behind his right eyeball.
To repair the damage, Vera had to undergo multiple surgeries, the last of which took place just seven weeks ago.
He had three metal plates and six screws inserted, which, in Vera's own words, "put my face back together."
Two of the plates will remain in the area permanently. The third already has been removed, and Vera has a special plan for it.
"I'm going to turn it into a piece of jewelry," Vera said. "I need to remind myself every day why I got that.
"If you cut it down to its purest form — I'm an arrogant (expletive). That's why I got my face broke."
Despite coming into the fight against Jones as more than a 2-to-1 underdog, Vera says he was actually too confident in his belief he'd handle the 23-year-old phenom.
Even when Jones took him down early in the first round, Vera remembers thinking he was still in control.
"During the fight I remember thinking, 'Man, really? All the hype was about this guy?'" Vera said. "I specifically remember saying to him in my head, 'Man, you (expletive) suck.'
"Right when the 'k' came out in my head, I got blasted."
The two fighters have headed down very different paths since walking out of the octagon that night.
The aura surrounding Jones has done nothing but grow and, after a dominant performance over Vladimir Matyushenko on Aug. 1, he appears headed for a matchup with one of the top fighters in the 205-pound division.
Vera, meanwhile, has had to deal with a long road to recovery.
Adding insult to injury, the 32-year-old fighter has been branded as "overrated" by many critics, having dropped his last two fights.
The recent shots at his own reputation don't bother Vera, as he says the people doubting him now are the same ones who called him the best when he began his career 8-0.
What does bother Vera is all the attention that's been placed on the young kid who broke his face in three places.
Although he knows he's in no position to ask the UFC for fights right now, Vera believes he will be in that place some day.
And he's going to ask for Jones.
"It's hard for me to say because he beat me, but I still don't believe the hype," Vera said. "I like Jon Jones as a fighter, but I owe that (expletive). He's definitely not coming to my house for Christmas."