Brandon Vera is the son of a Filipino father, Ernesto and his Filipino step-mother, Amelia. His birth mother is Italian American. He grew up in a family with three brothers and one sister. He was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, and attended Lake Taylor High School where he excelled in wrestling and earned a four-year athletic scholarship to Old Dominion University. However, he dropped out of Old Dominion after a year and a half when he felt college was not for him, and enlisted himself in the United States Air Force.
In the Air Force, Brandon Vera joined the force’s wrestling team and trained at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His military wrestling career was cut short in 1999 when he tore ligaments in his right elbow. Arthroscopic surgery repaired the ligaments, but he had nerve damage from the experience, causing him to be unable to use his right arm. He was released from the Air Force on a medical discharge.
Brandon Vera returned to Virginia where he steadily rehabilitated his arm, and eventually was fit enough to enter the Grapplers Quest submission wrestling competitions on the East Coast. There, his solitary training methods (he did not belong to a camp and trained and cut weight on his own) caught the attention of Lloyd Irvin, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu Black Belt and coach, who invited him to train with his school. At Irvin’s school, he was introduced to mixed martial arts. He also trained with Linxx Academy, and Hybrid Academy.
Brandon Vera’s first professional mixed martial arts bout was on July 6, 2002. He won the fight against Adam Rivera via TKO in the first round. He fought and won another bout in 2004 before entering a World Extreme Cagefighting heavyweight tournament in 2005, where he won two bouts in one night, including a bout against The Ultimate Fighter 2′s Mike Whitehead in the finals.
Brandon Vera moved to San Diego, California, on December 31, 2003.