Issue 146

October 2016

Cain Velasquez is finally healthy and determined to be champion again.

Cain Velasquez, UFC heavyweight

Age: 34

Team: American Kickboxing Academy

Record: 14-2

Velasquez is p**sed. Not only that, he’s healthy, he’s motivated and he’s gunning to get his UFC heavyweight title back. After three injury-plagued years without a win, AKA’s former champion returned to his very best at UFC 200, obliterating Travis Browne inside a round, flashing spinning wheel-kicks and flurries of fists. And in the aftermath he made his intentions clear – he’ll do whatever it takes to get his belt back.

Q. How happy were you to finally get back in the win column? 

A. I really didn’t celebrate it too much. Fighting in the first fight on the main card is not where I want to be, obviously. My timing was also a little off, due to the layoff I’ve had. And while it’s always good the get the win, the performance itself isn’t where I wanted it to be. But I’m always looking to get better.

Q. What weren’t you satisfied with? 

A. There was just so much to work on. Closing the distance and throwing combinations in close, setting up those wheel-kicks – these are the things that I want to improve on and get better at. If I go into a fight there are certain things I want to improve on. I’ll never be happy. That’s the way I am.

Q. You only had surgery at the start of the year, so did your back give you any problems?

A. My back feels great, 100%, and I’m really happy I had the surgery now. At the time it was pretty depressing facing up to the fact I needed surgery on my back aged just 33. It kind of sucked, but ultimately I had no choice. This sport takes its toll on your body and I’m just glad I had it done. I feel great now and there were no issues.

Q. How does it feel to finally be fighting without injuries?

A. It feels good to finally be fighting healthy. It’s nice to not actually be lying to the media when I say I’m 100%. I’ve made changes in my camp in a bid to stay healthy and it’s working. It’s a progressive thing, but I had to do things in camp to ensure I’m able to fight regularly. I have to keep up that maintenance on my body – every day and every week. And with that, I’ll be able to get even better because I’ll be able to train.

Q. Do you share fans’ frustration about your inability to stay injury-free? 

A. Listen, I don’t want to be out injured. I want to fight. I don’t like not fighting. That’s my job and if I don’t fight I don’t get paid. In fact, I’d guess I hate me not fighting much more than any of the fans. So I’ve made the changes that were necessary in camp. 

Q. What kind of changes did you make? 

A. Well, along with looking after my body much more, I’ve cut sparring down from three times a week to just once, maybe twice a week. That’s a big one. I’ve learned that as long as I’m in condition and sharp, that’s all I need. I’ve got the experience now and the time in practice in the tank, so I don’t need to be sparring as much as I used to.

Q. You’ve spoken before about fighting hurt. Which was the worst occasion?

A. The first Junior dos Santos fight was ridiculous. I shouldn’t have gone ahead with that fight, but I’m a stubborn person, I guess. I couldn’t wrestle. I couldn’t kick. I was pretty much boxing him head on, unable to move side to side, and the result, well, I paid the price for it. But I learned from that fight not to take fights when I can’t even do the simple stuff. 

Q. Why did you fight hurt so often?

A. I’ve got a pretty high pain threshold so I can fight hurt. My mind pushed all the hurt away. I would train with injuries too. I used to think that was good because it showed I’m mentally tough. But ultimately it was harming my career and I had to make the changes. 

Q. What triggered your change from recklessness to a more cautious approach?

A. I was missing out on my career – it was passing me by – and right now I just can’t miss any more fights or opportunities. I had no choice but to change things up in my training to be able to fight more regularly. I needed to be smarter. I’m not a rookie anymore and if I want the championship belt back I’ve got to look after myself far better.

Q. Is that your next target – the winner of UFC 203’s heavyweight title fight?

A. For sure. I want the winner of Stipe (Miocic) and (Alistair) Overeem. I’ve always maintained that I want to fight the best guys out there and whoever has the belt is that guy. That’s all I ever want – to fight the best.

Heavy load

Fight Cain, you get hit

Velasquez holds the record for the most strikes landed in UFC heavyweight history (1,464) along with the highest offensive output – averaging an astonishing 6.49 significant strikes every 60 seconds. That’s more than every fighter on the roster north of 135lb.