Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Mixed martial arts became mainstream when the UFC debuted on FOX; the league opened with a single fight - Cain Velasquez, coming off a win over Brock Lesnar, defending the heavyweight championship vs. Junior dos Santos. The winner was the baddest man on the planet, taking the mantle from whoever the boxing heavyweight champion was at the time.

Cain lost, but won the rematch a year later. Then within a year, he defended the belt twice, capped with winning the rubber match vs. JDS on  October 19, 2013. That was over five years ago, and he's fought just twice since. There was a series of injuries, but Cain has been healthy since mid-2017. The fighter hasn't fought in 30 months, due to contract negotiations, and a determination to spend precious family time following the birth of Cain Jr.

Now Velasquez fights Francis Ngannou in the main event of the UFC's debut on ESPN on February 17. Now 36, he has a new, four-fight contract he's very happy with. And UFC on ESPN 1 will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was a star Div I wrestler.

“It was just about [finding] the right fight at the right time,” explains Velasquez to Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “I believe this is that.”

“I never lost at home. At ASU, I never lost at home. Never. Throughout my whole life, I never lost at home. I only lost once — in high school I got upset. But all throughout junior high, high school, college: We don’t lose at home. That’s just what happens. So man, to be here again, to fight here in front of friends and family — this is just like old times again, right?”

“When we had my daughter — she’s nine now — at the height of my career, I wasn’t there for all of her baby stuff. And that, to me, was hard, because you’re trying to be two places at once and you really can’t, right? This is where I make my living, so it was hard to balance the two. So I really wanted to be there for my wife for her pregnancy. I was there for her for the whole thing, and then my son being born and being hands-on the whole first year. And man, I love the time I spent away. I got to do a lot of things that I didn’t have the chance to do before. I just really cherished those moments that I had.”

“I feel like I did [when I was younger]. I do. Obviously things are changing — and as far as that, it’s like, I have to be smarter when I train because I could definitely overtrain at any moment. That’s just what I do. But I still definitely do feel the same. I feel like the time off that I’ve had, I’ve been able to work on some stuff that I really can’t when you’re in fight training, because you’re obviously training for a specific guy, just for a specific style. But to not have anything on the books and to be training just kinda the stuff that you want to train, different techniques and stuff, it was great time off.”