Injuries have been a killer to UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’s career. Having not competed since October 2013, Velasquez was set to return at UFC 180 in November to take on Fabricio Werdum in the promotion’s inaugural trip to Mexico, but another injury set him back even longer. Now finally healthy, the champion will finally make his return in Mexico at this weekend’s (June 13, 2015) UFC 188 against Werdum, who now holds the interim title.
Known for his well-rounded game consisting of insane cardio and a relentless pace, there are many questions as to how Velasquez will look after so much time away. However, the champion ensures that his game plan remains the same as always, apply constant pressure, and attack everywhere:
“There’s no surprise what my gameplan is,” Velasquez told MMAjunkie. “Obviously, a lot of pressure on him and try to attack him everywhere.”
Although he missed the chance to headline the UFC’s first stop in Mexico, Velasquez, whose parents are of Mexican descent, is overly excited that he gets the chance to make his return in the land of his ancestors:
“The plane ride, when I landed, I felt something,” Velasquez admitted. “It’s a little more excitement than normal. I feel like it’s been a long time coming just to fight here, but also to get back. I’m glad that I get to fight here on my return.”
Training at the highly touted American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, a gym who has had many of its big name stars suffer injuries, Velasquez has received quite a bit of criticism for not having competed in so long. UFC president Dana White even referred to the gym’s training as “stone age”, but the champion doesn’t think about his injuries, noting that he had the surgeries he needed to have, and now he can train at full force, the way likes:
“I’ve gone through this before, where I’ve had injuries,” Velasquez said. “I felt like the surgeries I’ve had, I needed, and after getting them, I felt, yes, my body is back to 100 percent. I feel the same now. I get to train how I want. I get to train 100 percent and not worry about anything injury-wise. So yeah, I feel like I’ve done the fight think as far as trying to get my body healthy. I feel good.
“But we don’t think about it. There’s no good in having that in the back of your head as you’re working out. You just need to be in the moment. … You don’t stress. We try not to have it in the back of our minds when we’re working out. You have to just focus on the workout, itself.”
Although Velasquez has looked rather dominant when healthy, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, he has a tough test waiting for him in Mexico City. Known as one of the best submission artists in mixed martial arts (MMA) history, Werdum has upped his game recently by training at Kings MMA, adding a dangerous striking game to his arsenal.
Although confident and excited about the challenge, the champion knows he can’t look passed “Vai Cavalo”:
“Fabricio, he’s a different kind of fighter than I’ve fought in the past,” Velasquez said. “He’s a guy who does everything. Really good standup. He does everything in his standup – punches and kicks. He likes a lot spinning backfists and spinning heel kicks, and he’s really good on the ground. So I think he poses threats everywhere, and so I’m excited about this new challenge.”
Known for taking part in some bloody, five-round wars, Velasquez says that that’s how he pictures every fight, as a war, and if it ends earlier then great. The champion also added that he’s going to go forward like he always does and use the Mexican style of fighting to entertain the fans:
“I always picture one of those wars,” Velasquez said. “That’s me in my head. It gets me ready to train, just to have that thinking that this fight is going to go on the feet. It’s going to go on the ground. I’m going to be in bad positions. I’m going to be in good positions, and it’s going to last the entire 25 minutes. That’s how I envision every fight. If something happens where it ends early or something, then things went well. But I pretty much have a picture that it’s going to be a five-round war.
“For me, that’s just my fighting style: going forward and throwing a lot of punches and kicks. That’s the Mexican style, so I think the fans are going to love it. That’s what I’m going to do.”