CONCORD, Calif. – It's black, neoprene, and has a bright red ball attached to it by Velcro.
This is the sling that hosts Cain Velasquez's right forearm for the immediate future.
Back in October, the American Kickboxing Academy fighter beat Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight title, but Velasquez's next opponent could be his toughest yet: boredom.
"I feel lost," he told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) as he and AKA teammate Josh Koscheck prepared to sign autographs at the one-year anniversary celebration for the first UFC Gym opening. "I feel retired somehow, like I need to find a hobby."
He didn't have time for those before. Between the demands of training, public appearances and family life, he didn't have much time to tinker around the house. Working out was his hobby, and his job too.
Now, his right arm is pretty much useless as he recovers from major surgery he underwent two weeks prior for a badly torn rotator cuff. He could be back in the cage by August if the healing process goes well. If not, he may be out until December.
He can squeeze the ball to strengthen his grip, or do curls with a 10-pound dumbbell. He recently got his stitches out and can do cardio if he doesn't bounce up and down too much. He's recently taken to spin classes.
Those soccer moms apparently are on to something.
"I've gone to a couple, and they're tough," he said.
Velasquez (9-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) stormed through Lesnar this past October at UFC 121 to become the first Mexican-American champion in UFC history. When the adrenaline wore off that night, his right arm started to ache. He got home at 2 o'clock in the morning and felt a sharp pain when he tried to get out of bed. He had trouble sleeping. He rated it a "six or seven" out of 10 on the pain scale.
"I never know how important it is," he said. "One time, when I broke my hand, my bone was sticking out of my skin. I was like, 'Well, it doesn't feel too bad.' I never know how bad it is until he has to get the MRI done or an X-ray done."
An initial MRI showed damage to the right shoulder, and a second confirmed the bad news: a 90 percent tear in his rotator cuff. He had been expected to defend his title for the first time in April against Junior Dos Santos. The fight was called off, though, and Dos Santos was re-booked to face Lesnar in June in addition to coaching with the former champ on "The Ultimate Fighter 13."
Four days after the surgery, Velasquez was back in the gym working his legs. He's ready, at least in spirit, to meet the winner of Dos Santos vs. Lesnar.
"For me, it's the initial closing the distance for Lesnar – how he's going to deal with that," he said. "I know that Dos Santos is really good at keeping the distance (and) using his movement to throw his punches. For Brock, it's closing the distance and getting that pressure, getting the takedown and keeping the takedown."
He'll be watching when the two meet, possibly at UFC 131 in Vancouver.
Now, what to do in the mean time? He likes to go off-roading. He likes being outside. He doesn't like video games.
He's got to find something.
"I go to practice in the mornings, and after I'm there, I don't know what to do," Velasquez said. "I'm hanging out more with my fiance, and we're kind of driving each other crazy. We're not used to it. It's good for a while, but I've just got to be patient."