Lloyd Irvin woke up in the pre-dawn hours of October 4, 2008 to find two armed men had broken into his suburban Maryland home. They instructed him to get up and join them as they rounded up the home's other occupants, which included Irvin's wife and four year old son, as well as Brandon Vera, who was staying with Irvin while he did his training camp at Irvin's gym.
While one of the men held Vera and Irvin's family at gunpoint, the other led Irvin into a back bedroom. That's when Irvin saw his opening and took it, grabbing for the gun, ejecting the ammunition clip, and wrestling the weapon away from the gunman. Disarmed, the man shouted out a warning to his accomplice and they both fled the house, leaving Irvin, his family, and Vera all unharmed, but badly shaken.
"After that, I don't think MMA was number one in my life anymore," said Vera. "After that home invasion, I was like, hey, I could have been dead today, and there's still so much I want to do. There's so much I want to experience, so much I want to do with my wife. MMA just wasn't the number one priority in my life anymore. Without me knowing, my life rearranged itself."
"I did some really crazy stuff at the house for home protection ... For a while I had a protection company follow my wife around. It was crazy times."
Vera lost a split decision to Keith Jardine, then won two straight, before dropping fights to Randy Couture, Jon Jones, and Thiago Silva, and getting cut by the UFC.
That's when he knew he'd lost "it."
"People keep asking me what "it" is," Vera said. "But if you've never lost "it" there's no way I can explain what "it" is."
Vera embarked on a road trip, teaching seminars at gyms across the USA. "Somewhere along those 8,500 miles is where I found it again."
Police arrested a suspect in the home invasion case that they believed was linked to multiple murders in similar situations -- a man the local police chief deemed a "serial killer" -- who will now spend the rest of his life in prison following sentencing.
Three months after the Silva loss, the NSAC changed the result to "No Contest" following Silva's blood test anomaly, and admission to PED use. The UFC welcomed Vera back, to face Eliot Marshall at UFC 137 in Las Vegas Saturday night.
"It's not a new chapter; it's a whole new book," said Vera. "The path I was on before, I don't know where I was going or where I got lost. Somewhere I made a left when I should have made a right. I don't know, but I lost it, and now I've found it."