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Meet Cain Velasquez: MMA’s Next Big Heavyweight Prospect

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Given Cain Velasquez’ success on the collegiate level, there was little question that he was going to pursue mixed martial arts as a career when he graduated, despite earning his degree in education, and though he briefly considered sticking around for the 2008 Olympics, fighting was where his heart was.

“My junior year, I knew already that I wanted to fight when I was done,” said Velasquez. “I told my coach (Thom Ortiz) and he said ‘worry about wrestling now, and when you’re done wrestling we’ll figure out something for you to do and find a camp for you.’ And when I was done, he hooked me up with AKA and the rest is history.”

AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) is home to some of the UFC’s top contenders, such as Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Swick, as well as world-class battlers from around the MMA world and various visitors who pop in to the San Jose gym for quality work. If you can make it in this gym, you’ve got what it takes to compete in the Octagon.

“To see where these guys have been and to see how I train with them shows me where I’m at,” said Velasquez. “Just having top guys from around the world come in and train with me, that kinda lets me know ‘okay, I’m at this level right now.’”

Almost immediately upon his arrival in the gym, the buzz started about Velasquez, his work ethic and his potential to shake up the heavyweight division, with all of this coming before his first fight, while he was still learning the fundamentals of the fight game. And though the striking came pretty easy, the jiu-jitsu end of things took a little more time for him to get comfortable with.

“Between wrestling and jiu-jitsu you have to have different mentalities,” said Velasquez. “Jiu-jitsu is more flowing, while everything you get in wrestling is from work. If you get a single leg, you’ve got to work to get the guy down, and with jiu-jitsu it’s more flowing, and the action is more controlled. That part of it was the biggest change. The striking and all that, I think I made the adjustment pretty easy for myself; I felt comfortable striking so that wasn’t so bad.”

In October of 2006, Velasquez took less than two minutes to pound out Jesse Fujarczyk, and two months later he was in St. Petersburg, Russia, halting Jeremiah Constant in four minutes of the first round. 2-0, two impressive wins, and the 25-year old looks to be the goods. On Saturday, he’ll get to prove it when he makes his UFC debut against
Australia’s Brad Morris in Montreal. It’s a long way from St. Petersburg.

“This is the biggest show in fighting and this is what I’ve been waiting for,” said Velasquez. “Those other fights were just like wrestling matches during the season. This is like the Nationals. I had to work my way up the ladder to get to the finals; that’s what it feels like.”

To read the rest of this article with more on Cain Velasquez, click here.