Velasquez ready for title shot
It's a good time to be Cain Velasquez.
A 27-year-old UFC heavyweight, Velasquez just won the biggest fight of his career by beating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia, bringing him a big step closer to a potential heavyweight title fight against Brock Lesnar. And before he flew back to the United States, Velasquez took a short vacation where he proposed to his girlfriend during a stroll on the beach (she said yes).
Now Velasquez is back at his gym, the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, and in an interview with MMA Fighting, he said he thinks he's ready for that shot at Lesnar right now -- but if he doesn't get it yet, he'll also be happy to fight anyone else the UFC puts in front of him. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: I think the overwhelming reaction to your win over Nogueira has been that it was sort of a coming of age, like now everyone can say, "Cain Velasquez has officially arrived." Is that how you view it?
Cain Velasquez: No. I think I had already arrived a while ago. But I do think this proves I'm among the great fighters in this sport.
Where do you think you fit in among the best heavyweight fighters?
I'm not sure. I think I'm up there. We've got to see what happens with Frank Mir fighting Shane Carwin this month, but I think I'm right up there, and depending on what happens when they fight, I might be next in line for the heavyweight title.
Do you see yourself as ready for a title shot against Brock Lesnar right now?
Yes. I'm ready. I think I've been ready for a while. The way this sport works is you've just got to prove yourself when you get the chance. I want to fight the best so I can be the best.
You're a big, strong guy with a very good amateur wrestling background, but Lesnar is bigger, stronger and was even more accomplished as an NCAA wrestler. What do you view as your advantages over him?
I don't know what I do better but I do know I'd be ready. I know what I can do, I know I train with really tough guys, and I know I'd prepare myself to give him a really good fight -- I think it would be a really good fight between us.
Maybe it's too early for this, but have you given any thought to what your game plan would be if you fought Lesnar?
Yes, definitely. I have thought about it many times.
Can you share anything about what your strategy would be?
I think I'd have to wear him out for the first two or three rounds, because he's so big and strong. I'd need to be weary of him at the beginning.
But you think you could outlast him later in the fight?
I think that'd be my best option, trying to do that. He's a great athlete, and he has wrestled in the NCAAs, and you have to be a top athlete to do that, but I think that would be my best bet.
If you don't get Lesnar next, who do you think your next opponent should be?
I'm not sure. That's for the UFC to decide. Whenever they have somebody for me to fight, that'll be fine.
How quickly do you want to get back into the cage?
Well, it would really depend on how the Mir-Carwin fight goes and then we'll see who gets to challenge Lesnar after that.
What do you think of Mir vs. Carwin? How do you see that fight going down?
I think it's an interesting fight, they're very well matched. Mir has the better jiu jitsu game, both guys have power on their feet, both guys have good positional wrestling. It's hard to say who will win but I think Mir always comes out with a great game plan and I think he really has that going for him. What Carwin can do is knock you out and that makes him dangerous, too.
Are you going to be watching that fight hoping that the winner won't be able to take on Lesnar? I know you're not wishing a serious injury on anyone, but is there a part of you that wants things to play out so that you're the one who gets Lesnar next?
No, I think they both deserve the shot and if one of them gets it, he's earned it. If not I'll be ready, for sure.
A lot of people have suggested Junior dos Santos. Is that a fight you'd like?
That would be a great fight. I think his boxing is the best in heavyweight MMA and he's just really strong and really tough. I haven't seen a weakness in his game yet and that would be really interesting if it came to that fight.
Do you spend a lot of time studying other top fighters, like Nogueira, dos Santos, Mir, Carwin, Lesnar, the other top heavyweights?
Yes, I do. And once I know my opponent at the start of camp I get all the film I can of all of my opponent's recent fights and figure out the game plan, and then from there on we're working on that game plan all the way to the fight. From that point on once we've got that game plan, everything in training is working on specifically what I want to do in that fight.
Is the week after a fight all about relaxing and recovery or are you already back in the gym again?
I spent a little time in Australia just relaxing, but today I'll be back in the gym, trying to get back into it slowly.
What will you be working on?
Just technique. I'm trying to get better all the way around. I'll be working on some no-gi jiu jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, and there's really no one aspect that I work on -- it's about everything, trying to get better all over.
It sounds like you view yourself as still having room for improvement as a fighter?
That's right. This sport is always evolving, and you have to evolve with it. You have to keep going because everyone else is going to be getting better and better. You have to be top level as a kickboxer, top level as a wrestler, top level in jiu jitsu, because you're going to be fighting guys how are at a top level in everything.
Is there one particular part of your game that you feel you have to improve?
No, it's more a matter of slowly moving forward. Every month -- every week -- I want to learn something new. You want to feel like you're always progressing.
The UFC has talked about wanting to expand into Mexico and also to become more popular among Latino fans in the United States. Do you view yourself as a big part of that effort?
Definitely. I see people on the street who tell me they're really pulling for me, and telling me they'd like to do what I do, and they're getting more into MMA, and I think that's great. It's a great feeling when people tell you they look up to you, and that they think you represent them. I'm happy to do that.
Boxing is still more popular than MMA among Mexican and Mexican-American fans, but do you think MMA is closing the gap?
Yes, I went down to Mexico and did some media and met with some people, and they're really getting into it. Not everyone knows about the UFC yet, but the people who do are really excited about it. Just like when the UFC goes anywhere, once people see what we do they get hooked.
Considering that you're still in your 20s, you're already in a position where you can contend for the heavyweight championship and you represent a demographic where the UFC sees a lot of potential for growth, do you think you're going to be one of the big stars of this sport for the decade to come?
I'm ready for it, and with the success of the sport I think that's going to come, but for me I could do without that part of it. I know it's part of the territory but the No. 1 thing for me is just to continue to train and keep getting better.