Top UFC heavyweight fighter Cain Velasquez has been patiently waiting in the wings for a title shot ever since he demolished MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira this past February in the main event of UFC 110. Velasquez has been at the forefront of the crop of heavyweight contenders for some time now (second only to Shane Carwin) but had to wait for UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar to recover from diverticulitis and take on Carwin before he would receive his shot at the belt. Now that Lesnar has defeated Carwin (at UFC 116 this past July 3rd), the young American Kickboxing Academy product will have his chance to challenge Lesnar for the belt.
With their impending matchup scheduled to go down at UFC 121 this October, Velasquez is already spending time in the gym to sharpen up his skills in preparation for that bout. He recently took some time away from that gym work to speak with Fight! Magazine about his upcoming title shot and also to offer his thoughts on Lesnar’s come-from-behind win against Carwin and to give insight as to how he prepares to deal with the champion’s penchant for trash talk.
As far as how he is beginning to prepare for Lesnar, Velasquez said that he is doing what he normally does: trying to improve his technique, stay sharp and prepare himself for the nerves that are associated with a high-profile UFC fight (and it doesn’t get much more high-profile than a title fight against Brock Lesnar).
“Just getting better in the gym, getting–technique-wise–better,” Velasquez said. “We’re always sparring in here and I think that really gets me ready for fights. It keeps me sharp. It’s kind of like, you get nervous like you would in a fight–you come in here and spar, it’s not in front of a big crowd but it’s as close to a fight as it comes.”
Velasquez also offered his thoughts on Lesnar’s gutsy UFC 116 performance against Shane Carwin, which saw the champion take a brutal beating in the first round only to come back and submit Carwin in the second frame.
“I thought he looked good,” Velasquez said. “I thought he showed a lot of heart. A lot of guys wouldn’t have gotten past that first round with Shane, especially with the ground and pound. … He has a lot of heart. He has the heart of a true champion that he can overcome adversity and come back and win.”
Despite the respect that he has earned from Velasquez, Lesnar apparently showed a few holes in his game during that performance of which Velasquez certainly took note.
“I don’t know if it was the layoff he had or the illness but his striking didn’t look as good as Shane’s, but I mean Shane Carwin has a lot of power and he showed that,” he said. “But, like I said before, he showed a lot of heart to come back and win that fight.”
The biggest win of Velasquez’s young career came against Brazilian Jiu-jitsu ace and MMA legend Antonio Nogueira and while he knows that it was that bout that earned him his title shot, Velasquez is not operating on the logic that, because he beat Nogueira, he will have an easier time against Lesnar.
“It just feels like every fight, the next guy is harder,” said Velasquez. “Every fight the guy is ten times better. That’s how I have to approach this fight. Nogueira’s Nogueira but this fight is a whole other level, I think.”
Although Lesnar certainly showed more restraint and humility after his win over Carwin than we have grown to expect from him, it would not be surprising to see him take a few verbal jabs at Velasquez during the lead up to the fight. When asked if he intends to fight fire with fire, Velasquez maintained that he will take the high road and do his talking once the cage door closes.
“That’s not my style,” Velasquez said. “I’m going to show you. That’s what I do — I don’t talk, I’m going to show you.”
Lesnar, who has less pro fighting experience than does Velasquez, has showed an almost uncanny ability to absorb MMA knowledge at an incredible rate. Velasquez acknowledges that Lesnar possesses that ability and is expecting the unexpected come October but is still remaining focused on the two static variables in Lesnar’s game: his power and wrestling ability.
“We’ll see,” Velasquez said when asked if he expects Lesnar to bring something new to the table for their matchup. “I think he has good training partners, good coaches, he’s always getting better in all aspects of MMA but I’ve always got to be aware of his strong points and that’s his power and his wrestling.”
His training plan, which is already in progress, is to sharpen his tools in every area of MMA and to train with fighters who mimic Brock’s size, strength and style.
“I expect the fight to go everywhere, on the feet, on the ground–so I’m pretty much gonna be polished in all aspects of MMA,” said Velasquez. “With his wrestling, I’m bringing other guys in that are his size and are Division 1 level wrestlers and that’s pretty much all I can do.”
Velasquez has shown that he has real respect for Brock Lesnar, but do not be fooled into thinking that he is the least bit intimidated by the champion; Velasquez intends to do to Lesnar what he has done to everyone else he has faced up to this point in his professional career: beat him handily.
“No,” Velasquez said when asked if he were intimidated by Lesnar. “He’s just another man that I have to fight against to get what I want.”
Lesnar and Velasquez will square off to dispute the UFC Heavyweight Title on October 23rd and though it has yet to be officially announced, the card is expected to take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.