Raising Cain: Velasquez on the rise
Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
For the most part, UFC fighters are nice people.
And then there’s Cain Velasquez (3-0).
The man fighting out of Arizona’s American Kickboxing Academy is a soft spoken, 6’1, 240 pound gentle giant. However, if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be mistaken about this writer’s description of this rising heavyweight star, is that he is, in any way, soft. With just three professional fights to his credit—and three victories by TKO—the college wrestling standout is nice with his hands. So, nice, that it prompted his trainer, Javier Mendez to compare Velasquez to one of the greatest of all time.
“[Cain] will be the Muhammad Ali of MMA,” Mendez has told the press.
Young careers have been derailed by lofty comparisons in the past, as fighters who start strong find themselves crushed by the pressure of great expectations. Velasquez is flattered by the comparison, but quickly shrugs it off, opting to focus on performing in the Octagon.
“How can there be another Muhammad Ali?” Velasquez says when asked about the Ali comparison. “I just have to go out there and perform. Whatever anybody says, it doesn’t mean anything unless I deliver. I just sit back and do Cain. What people say is not going to help me.”
And deliver he has. Velasquez entered the UFC with a bang, dominating Brad Morris with pin point striking in an overwhelming victory. Before TKO victories notched his MMA record, Velasquez star shined on the wrestling team at Arizona State University, where he was a two time All-American. Despite the accolades received, martial arts began calling him even as he was grinding out victories on the mat.
“I told my wrestling coach that I wanted to get into MMA as soon as I was done [wrestling], he says of the transition. “He introduced me to DeWayne Zinkin, who’s my current manager right now. After the season was done, he hooked me up with AKA and the rest is history.”
It turns out that wrestling just wasn’t aggressive enough for the college aged Velasquez.
“There were certain aspects of wrestling that were missing. I wanted to hit people while I was wrestling.”
Velasquez will get another opportunity to hit people when he meets fellow college wrestling standout Jake O’Brien this Saturday. Like his previous three matchups, look for Velasquez to use his takedown defense to keep this fight standing. “He’s a tough guy, it’s a great opportunity to go out and show my skills, “he says of O’Brien.
Where many fighters eye championship gold as they climb the ranks, Velasquez is just taking things one fight at a time and refuses to speculate on what a victory will do for his stock in the UFC. “I’m not really sure,” he says of what a win will do for him, before adding, “I haven’t thought about it. It’s just one more step on the ladder. The fights are going to get harder and harder.”
In a division with heavy hitters like Frank Mir, Brock Lesnar, and current champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, it looks to be a tough road to tow—and Velasquez wouldn’t want it any other way.