Cain Velasquez’s long awaited return to the octagon is imminent, and he addressed reporters Tuesday ahead of his main event showdown with Francis Ngannou at UFC Phoenix this weekend.
Los Angeles, CA — Cain Velasquez makes his long-awaited return to the octagon this Sunday, where he’ll take on Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC on ESPN 1. If it seems a little like deja vu, it’s understandable. It was Velasquez who helped usher in the FOX era, facing (and losing to) Junior Dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1.
It seems like just yesterday, even if it was another era. Part of that feeling may be due to how little Velasquez competed in the following years. The former heavyweight champion has fought just twice since 2013, a loss to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188, and a win over Travis Browne at UFC 200. He sat out all of 2014, 2017, and 2018.
After a host of injuries, however, Cain Velasquez is back. And as he told media outlets on Tuesday at a media lunch ahead of UFC Phoenix, his health is good. “I feel strong. The time off was good, man, it’s something that I really needed for my body and for my mind. To take a step back, and kind of regroup.”
“I’ve had a great training camp. I’m just ready to go out there and do this,” he added.
While it might have been hard to sit on the sidelines while fans continually asked when he might return, Velasquez pointed out that “I’ve always done the quick comeback, as fast as I can – but for what? What’s the rush for? I’ve always had some positives, some negatives when I came back too early.”
“For me,” he continued, “it’s more of a thing where, I’ll come back when the time is right. So the time is now.”
As far as injuries are concerned, Velasquez sees them as part of the sport. “What we do as a sport. How we train, what’s the best way of training. To be the best that you can be, you don’t do it by being half-assed. You don’t do it by not putting 100% into your work.” Sometimes, that hard work takes its toll. But it’s all done “to get the best Cain Velasquez, to get the best fighter out there that people want to see.” To get that, “you’ve got to train hard. And that’s the only way that I know how to do it.”
“There is overtraining, but I don’t overtrain,” he said of any suggestion that he might be pushing too hard. “The time that I go out there and train, I do it 100%.”
While there was word that Velasquez might return late last year, there were other factors in the timing of his latest comeback. Mainly, financial terms. “It all had to make sense as well, for me to come back.” Fighting and training take a lot out of him, despite how competitive he is. Luckily, in the end, the deal made sense for both Velasquez and his family.
As far as opponent Ngannou, “I know Francis hits hard. He’s really powerful with his hands. He’s a really strong guy. I know that. He’s very dangerous there.”
“It’s a chess match. We’ve got to go out there and beat him the best way we know how, the best way we can. And that’s just with everything, with the strikes, with the wrestling,” Velasquez continued. “If the fight goes five rounds, make it a five round war, that’s what we have to do.”
“I know he hits hard, we have to be aware of that, that’s his strength.”
During that long layoff, Velasquez admitted that retirement thoughts were a reality. “I always thought about it,” he said. “Just me and my family, we talked about it. My wife and I.”
“I would have been okay with it. There is life after fighting,” he added. Now that he has kids, “it’s all about that longevity. It all had to make sense, and it has.” Financially, in other words.
In his time away, another fighter rose to claim the heavyweight title defense record many expected Cain Velasquez himself to shatter. Stipe Miocic.
“Stipe just put in work when he needed to do it, and he won when he needed to do it. My hat’s off to him, with the guys that he’s fought. I believe he’s been a great champion,” Velasquez said in regards to Micioc’s record. “I knew just going in and watching him throughout his career, I knew how good he was.”
That said, “when Danny [Daniel Cormier] had the opportunity to fight him, I didn’t see anywhere where Daniel would lose that fight. I was pretty confident in that.” And as for any rematch between the two, Velasquez told Cageside Press on Tuesday that “that’s just the way it went. There’s a lot of entertainment in this sport, [more so] then actually being like a legitimate sport. Anything can happen at any moment.”
“Just because you were the reigning, defending heavyweight champion, doesn’t mean you get a title shot right away.”
Watch the full press scrum with Cain Velasquez above. The former champion returns against Francis Ngannou Sunday, February 17 at the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, AZ. The card airs on ESPN.