After a whirlwind 2012, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez is enjoying the calm after the storm.
For Cain Velasquez, entering the cage against Brazilian slugger Junior dos Santos on December 29 wasn’t nearly as difficult as explaining to his 3-year-old daughter why they weren’t celebrating Christmas on December 25.
“It was hard—we had to lie to her a little bit,” says Velasquez. “On Christmas Day, we just did a normal training day. I went to practice and did the normal stuff, and we didn’t really celebrate Christmas. My wife and I talked about it before and decided that we would celebrate Christmas after the fight. Once we got home from the fight, we had a great Christmas.”
Such are the perils of life as a professional cage fighter, especially one who’s scheduled to headline the UFC’s traditional end-of-year event. Fortunately for Velasquez, his December 29 win over dos Santos proved to be one of the best performances of his professional career, and the belated holiday proved to be very merry.
“When we got back to California, we told her that Santa was going to come the next day,” Velasquez says. “We put her to bed, and the next morning, she got to wake up and open all of her presents.”
Velasquez probably deserved a few extra packages under the tree, as well. After all, to the victor goes the spoils, and Velasquez’s rematch victory over the Brazilian slugger was 25 minutes of heavyweight MMA at its finest. According to FightMetric, Velasquez landed 210 total strikes during the fight and scored with 11 of 33 takedown attempts. He assaulted dos Santos from the opening bell, and while the former champ showed incredible heart during a fight that ultimately left his face almost unrecognizable, Velasquez was in complete control throughout the five-round affair.
The traditionally modest Velasquez describes his work with a few less superlatives.
“I think I did good,” Velasquez says. “I think the first two rounds, I put a lot of pressure on him. From that, I kind of tired him out, and I didn’t give him the room he needed to show his hands. I think keeping him on the feet with the wrestling and then going up top really helped me out. We’ve been in the position before in practice, where we have fresh guys in while we’re doing five rounds. I just knew that with the early pressure he would be more tired than I was. And he was.”
For Velasquez, the victory was especially sweet. After all, regaining the UFC Heavyweight Title was his ultimate goal, but doing it against the man who handed him his lone career defeat was an even more rewarding experience.
“It was definitely special,” Velasquez says. “It’s not just getting the belt, itself. It’s avenging my only loss against a guy who people thought was kind of unbeatable.”
Velasquez’s gift came with a special bonus, as well—UFC sponsor Harley-Davidson promised the winner a custom-made motorcycle. While the century-old American bike manufacturer has done the same for past winners of The Ultimate Fighter, the prize was especially appreciated by Velasquez, who has developed into a bit of a biking enthusiast.
“Me and my wife were talking about it, and we decided biking was something we could do together,” Velasquez says. “We ended up doing it, and I just kind of fell in love with it.”
Velasquez ended up ordering a customized Touring Road Glide, which he’s looking forward to using for road trips around his Bay Area home. He offered to buy his wife a motorcycle, as well, but she’s content for now to let her husband do the driving.
“She doesn’t have one yet,” Velasquez says. “I told her, ‘If you want one, we can get you one,’ but she wasn’t super excited about it. I think she’d rather have a new purse than a motorcycle. But we go on trips together. I’ll take her on the back, and we’ll go places.”
Rest and relaxation have been Velasquez’s primary focus thus far in 2013. After a belated Christmas celebration came a whirlwind media tour that saw the UFC Heavyweight Champ visit Chicago, Miami, and Mexico City. When that excitement died down, it was time for a family vacation.
“I was getting in the gym when I could, but we definitely needed to take a family trip because they deserve it,” Velasquez says. “We also just spent time at home. We had family over to do a Christmas party. That’s pretty much it.”
But now, it’s back to business. The contenders to his UFC crown are already lining up and taking aim at the division’s new kingpin. Junior dos Santos’ camp called for an immediate rematch, but Velasquez doesn’t believe that’s justified. After all, when he lost his title to dos Santos in 2011 via first-round TKO, Velasquez had to work his way back to a championship bout with a win over Antonio Silva.
“I think the win over dos Santos was decisive enough that we should move on,” Velasquez says. “He’s in the same shoes I was in where I had to come back and fight again. There was no talk from my side for an immediate rematch with the way that I lost. I just took it, and I knew I would have my chance again, but I knew I had to earn it.”
That said, Velasquez definitely sees a rubber match with dos Santos in his future.
“I think we will definitely meet again, for sure,” Velasquez says. “I don’t know when, but I know we will.”
Alistair Overeem had been expected to challenge for Velasquez’s title prior to his shocking UFC 156 loss to Antonio Silva. Instead, it appears “Bigfoot” is now a leading candidate to rematch the man who beat him in May 2012. This time, however, there will be even more on the line.
Regardless of the opponent, Velasquez will look to defend his belt for the first time, and history isn’t necessarily on his side. In the 16-year history of the belt, no man has ever defended the title more than twice. Velasquez wasn’t able to successfully defend the crown during his first run as champion, but he promises things will be different this time around.
“I definitely want to defend it,” Velasquez says. “That’s been my goal since the beginning. That’s the name of the game. You don’t want to get it once or twice. I want to keep accumulating these belts for a while. That’s my whole focus right now.”
Cain Velasquez’s return to the top of the UFC’s heavyweight mountain comes just as his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Daniel Cormier is making his highly-anticipated Octagon debut. The undefeated Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner is slated to face Frank Mir in April, and a win would boost his already surging stock.
UFC president Dana White is often quick to offer his take on teammates fighting, but Velasquez doesn’t anticipate a problem, as he expects his training partner to ultimately move down to 205 pounds.
“I think he’s talking about going down to 205 pounds,” Velasquez says. “But I think with him being a friend, a teammate, and a coach, I don’t want to fight him. He’s a workout partner, and he’s my wrestling coach. Especially with the fights with Junior dos Santos and Brock Lesnar, so much of it had to do with my wrestling, and I worked very closely with DC.”
For his part, Cormier has yet to reveal his ultimate plan. He has teased a move to light heavyweight and has gone so far as to challenge UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Velasquez believes his path will never cross Cormier’s, but he does believe success lies ahead for his teammate.
“I think whatever he does, he’s going to be a champion,” Velasquez says. “He can win a belt in either weight class.”
Prior to Cain Velasquez’s rematch with Junior dos Santos, a video of a training session prior to the pair’s first fight was leaked online. The clip provided irrefutable video evidence of a long-rumored knee injury that Velasquez carried into the first matchup.
While the video, which was posted without the fighter’s consent, made it clear Velasquez was dealing with a serious injury in the first fight, he would have preferred it to have remained under wraps.
“Even though I was hurt, what’s the point of me crying about it and telling everyone?” Velasquez says. “For me, I just had to come back and fight and win—not talk about it. I wish the people would have told me that it was going to come out or something because I would have told them, ‘No, don’t bring it out. It’s stupid.’ It is what it is, but it did make me mad. Putting out that video without letting me know was a little frustrating.”
At full health, Velasquez went out and dominated dos Santos in the rematch. Still, Velasquez refuses to make any excuses for losing in just 64 seconds in the pair’s first encounter.
“It’s just that coming into the second fight, if I wasn’t successful, people would be like, ‘Okay, you weren’t hurt, what’s the excuse this time?’ And it would just be making excuses. There’s no need for them.”
UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez recently found himself under attack, as undefeated English boxing prospect Tyson Fury labeled him a “little midget on steroids” and challenged him to a fight in either an MMA cage or boxing ring.
Velasquez was unfazed by the challenge and admitted he didn’t really know who Fury was before the unexpected call-out. That being said, Velasquez would be more than happy to meet Fury in the Octagon, provided he works his way through the UFC’s ranks.
“He’s just trying to ride my coattails,” Velasquez says. “If he wants to go to the UFC, just work your way up the way everybody else does. Do it. Don’t talk about it. Do it.”