Many of those surrounding Cain Velasquez knew there was something special about the powerful teen from very early on. Velasquez compiled a wrestling record of 110-10 during his high school days and went on to captain both his varsity football and wrestling teams in his senior year at Kofa High School in Yuma, Arizona.
Upon graduation, Velasquez went on to wrestle for Iowa Central Community College where he won the NJCAA National Championship in the heavyweight division. After one year at Iowa Central, Velasquez transferred schools and continued with his success in wrestling, this time for the prestigious Arizona State University wrestling team. While with ASU, the imposing heavyweight obtained All-America honors, a Pac-10 title, went on a 21 match win streak and was named the 2005 Pac-10 Conference Wrestler of the Year.
The transition to the fighting world of mixed martial arts was a natural one for Velasquez. He made his successful debut at a Strikeforce event in October of 2007, knocking out Jesse Fujarczyk in the very first round. Ending all of his fights on his own terms, Velasquez has yet to be pushed out of the opening round.
Known as a cardio machine and a monster in the gym, Velasquez has quickly garnered the respect of his peers, many of the top fighters in the game. Even before Velasquez had stepped into the octagon for the first time, people were talking. There were many that were saying then, and are saying now, that the twenty six year old prospect has the potential to become the future of the heavyweight division. Those are some pretty high expectations for a fighter entering his fifth professional bout to have hanging over his head but Velasquez told FiveOuncesOfPain.com in an exclusive interview that he’s not sweating what other people expect from him. According to Valasquez, actions speak louder than words in the cage.
“I’m just doing my thing,” said Velasquez. “Regardless of what people say about me, I’m going to have to go out there and prove it. People can say all that they want but I’m going to have to go out there and make all of those statements true.”
He will have another opportunity to prove that he is the real deal on Saturday night when he faces off with Golden Glory striker, Denis Stojnic, at UFC Fight Night 17. Everything has gone according to plan with Velasquez’ training and he is hungry to get in the octagon and let his fists do the talking.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” said Velasquez. “All of my training is done so I’m ready to get in there and fight and get this over with.”
Training with one of the best camps in the business has left Velasquez overflowing with confidence entering his third trip into the octagon. American Kickboxing Academy has been the home to many of the UFC’s top fighters over the years and the gym has no shortage of big men for Velasquez to work with.
“I have been training a lot with Paul Buentello, Mike Kyle and Kyle Kingsbury to get ready for this one,” said Velasquez. “I’ve also been training a lot with Christian Wellisch, who’s fought Jake O’Brien on Saturday, and of course all of the rest of the guys at AKA.”
“I’ve really been focusing on my entire game for this fight. He likes to come forward so I want to use my footwork and look for openings when he comes in.”
Facing a fighter that is making his debut in the octagon often presents problems for fighters and coaches looking to obtain valuable video tape on their opponent and the fact that Stojnic has spent the bulk of his career competing in Eastern Europe and Holland makes the task no easier for Velasquez and his camp. Luckily for Velasquez he was able to utilize this glorious thing we call the internet to do the homework that had to be done.
“There’s a couple of his fights that I have seen of his on YouTube so I have been able to study him a little,” said Velasquez. “I’ve seen two of his fights and some of his training sessions. He’s an aggressive fighter and I’m an aggressive fighter so I think that it’s going to be a great fight. I think we match up well.”
Velasquez makes no bones about his intentions in his upcoming fight with Stojnic. His intentions are bad.
“The perfect ending to this fight would be the TKO or knockout, for sure,” said Velasquez. “A submission would be good too, I just want to finish him.”
Finishing his opponents has been something that Velasquez has shown a natural ability to do so far in his career. Four minutes is the longest any of his opponents have managed to last up until this point in his career.
“It just kind of happens,” said Velasquez. “I don’t like to force anything but of course, I like to end my fights with punches. I don’t really like to end fights with submissions but if it’s there I’ll take it.”
The stoppages may come easy to Velasquez but that doesn’t mean for a second that he wants to leave his fate in the hands of the judges anytime soon. The role of a finisher in the UFC’s heavyweight division suits Velasquez just fine.
“It’s important to me that I finish my fights,” said Velasquez. “It just goes along with my style of fighting. I’m aggressive and it will be exciting when I fight, for sure. It will not be a boring fight.”
The ASU stand out feels like the transition to MMA for top level wrestler’s such as himself is a natural progression. The experience with the type of grueling training that mixed martial artists must expose themselves to makes the crossover that much easier for life long athletes like Velasquez.
“I think that anyone that has wrestled at a high level will have an advantage when making the transition to mixed martial arts,” explained Velasquez. “Just because of the mentality that goes into training for wrestling and how we translate that to MMA. The mentality is very high paced and the practices for wrestling are very high paced so it makes the transition to MMA easy.”
“The transition from wrestling to MMA has been fairly easy for me. Just building all the jiu-jitsu and kickboxing around my wrestling, it has been easy.”
With all of the high expectations that have been placed on Velasquez at this early point in his career, the rising star knows to keep his feet on the ground and to take things one fight at a time. The title shot will come eventually, but there’s no need to rush things.
“I think the more fights I get under my belt before I challenge for the title, the better,” said Velasquez. “I’m not really sure how many more.”
“I do feel really comfortable out there in the cage but I think that the more fights I have, the better off I would be. Just for me to feel really super comfortable in there and have a lot of experience in the cage before that big fight comes along.”
As a Mexican American in the UFC, Velasquez is in a unique position to grab the attention of an enormous market in the sport. Known for their undying loyalty to their native boxers throughout the years, Mexican Americans have historically been tremendous fans of the fight game. Being one of the representatives for his race in the worlds fastest growing sport is a position that Velasquez considers himself honored to be in.
“It’s a great feeling that people would look at me in that way and to be a representative,” said Velasquez. “There has always been a lot of interest in the Mexican boxers. The Mexican boxers have always been in the high rankings, especially in the lighter weights. I think it’s a great feeling for me to be in that position and to show everybody what I have.”
What better fighter to potentially capture the attention of a large audience that may be unfamiliar with the sport than Velasquez? The talented Mexican American sums up what he stands for with the writing on his chest, “Brown Pride”.
“My tattoo is a symbol for the pride that I have in my heritage. It just stands for Mexican pride, being proud of who I am. It’s not gang related or anything like that, it’s just being proud of where I come from.”
Velasquez may very well be the future of the heavyweight division but only time and combat will tell. “The future” or not, Velasquez promises to be one to watch for years to come in the increasingly top level athlete dominated world of mixed martial arts.
“I’m going to keep my fights exciting,” said Velasquez. “I’m going to build my way up to the top. I’m going to climb the ladder, for sure.”
“My ultimate goal is to become the UFC heavyweight champion, that’s it. People talk about all the hype surrounding me but I have to go out there and prove it and that’s what I’m here to do.”
“I want to thank my team, Team AKA and all of my coaches. Also, I want to thank my manager, DeWayne Zinkin at Zinkin Entertainment.”